The Folded World - Amity Gaige

Charlie stepped toward her ... feeling vaguely like a monster who had been trained for the circus. It occurred to him that sometimes a man's very maleness made him like a monster who had been trained for the circus.

I feel like I've waited a long time for a book like this. I keep reading fiction in which it seems like almost all the people are dysfunctional and depressed, and life is bleak and just about hopeless. There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part I don't feel like there are many books about well-adjusted relationships. Finally, here is a book that qualifies—sort of.

She was not modest, she simply had not yet occurred to herself. Many of her friends had occurred to themselves.

Charlie Shade is a well-adjusted young man. He's from the Midwest, he's a runner, and he has basically lived a golden life, without ever really experiencing failure. But in his search for the "seam" between his life and the life of madness, he becomes a social worker at a psychiatric hospital and tries to fix the brokenness he knows is out there but has never had in his own life. Alice Bussard is a shy girl who has been dominated by her mother. Despite being a voracious reader and quite intelligent, somehow she never managed to make it to college, but stayed home and lived with her mom for several more years after high school, cultivating little superstitions passed down from her mother.

The two of them eventually encounter each other, and there follow a multitude of beautifully written passages about being in love, about being newly married, about becoming parents. There are also passages (also beautifully written) about slowly going crazy, about temptation, about past pains and how they continue to dwell in us.

It was scary to love so much as they did but they had gone ahead and done it anyway.

The book jumps from one point of view to another; although it seems that Charlie and Alice are the main characters, we see the world from many points of view: Hal, a young wrestler and one of Charlie's first patients; Opal, a woman who is terrified of snow; Marlene, Alice's mother; and several others who come into the story at oblique angles, never when you expect them.

Gaige's writing took me by surprise, and I kept coming across passages I wanted to read aloud to Robyn. "Listen to this!" She wants to read it herself and doesn't want me to spoil it, but there were just so many quotable passages. It's a book I want to get so I can flip through it and reread sections at a time. It's really a celebration of what love can be despite its pitfalls.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 11, 2007 | Comments (0)


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