She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb

This is the first Wally Lamb book I've read, though I'm quite familiar with several Wally Lamb covers from my days at Waldenbooks. The only reason I decided to read this one was that several people, upon seeing my Etch-a-Sketch art recently, have asked me if I'd read it before. In it, the main character (who comes undone) picks up an Etch-a-Sketch and creates masterpieces with it. So, after the fourth time I'd been asked, I decided I better check it out and read it. Now I can say, "Why, yes, I have read it," though in actuality the Etch-a-Sketch portion is fairly minor. I had been thinking, as I got started, that perhaps if they described any of the drawings, I could try to do them myself, as a reference. But it turns out mostly they were reproductions of paintings, like Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and probably wouldn't specifically refer to this book.

She's Come Undone is a coming-of-age story about Dolores Price, a girl who seems to have everything go wrong in her life, both her uncontrollable circumstances and her controllable responses to them. Her parents' divorce, her mom's breakdown, her repressive grandmother, rape, obesity, college, a vast web of lies, her own divorce—everything she does seems headed for disaster. When things seem to be going fairly well but there's still a good chunk of the book left, you know it's just room for some more catastrophes before she's back on track again.

But I guess that's the other thing—throughout it all, you always have the feeling that eventually she'll figure it out, pull herself back together again, allow herself to be loved. It's the sort of book that's painful to read yet you really want to be there when she has a breakthrough. I will say that I didn't entirely empathize with Dolores, being a guy who had a good childhood, didn't fight obesity or depression, and is happily married to my college sweetheart; but I still thought it was a good read. I haven't read too many girl coming-of-age stories (Middlesex only halfway qualifies) so I'm not a great judge of them, but this was also an Oprah Book Club pick, so if you're into that, you can add this to your list.

Just don't get your hopes up about the Etch-a-Sketch thing.

Fed to jonathan's brain | November 04, 2004