Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Anthropology of an American Girl, Hilary Thayer Hamann

I knew I'd found a jewel within a few pages. If I could give this six stars, I would have. I loved this that much. It's Updike's Rabbit novels for women... seriously. That cutting and insightful. Updike, Salinger, all of them featuring men having these tortured, drug and sex filled youths, and in this novel women have an intelligent, emotive coming of age story. 

I read a review that compared Hamann's sentences with Henry James , and I think that's a respectable comment. They are so lilting and uniquely descriptive. It is a novel brimming with heartfelt sentiment! 

I was reminded sometimes of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar protagonist, just slightly less wounded and more lovelorn. I loved the insight into growing up and all of the mistakes that come with it; Hamann's protagonist is very flawed, but her honesty and passion are raw and respectable, just like Hamann's prose. If you find yourself in disbelief as to Eveline's actions/inactions, think back to your own high school/college/first job days. Eveline's voice and story are uncompromised by cliche or standards. There's nothing corny or stereotypical about her story, which is one of my favorite qualities in this novel. It really stands for itself.

Honestly, it's a novel that should be given air to speak for itself, so I am going to provide some quotes rather than drone on!

Boys will be boys, that's what people say. No one ever mentions how girls have to be something other than themselves altogether. We are to stifle the same feelings that boys are encouraged to display. We are to use gossip as a means of policing ourselves -- this way those who do succumb to sex but are not damaged by it are damaged instead by peer malice. Girls demand a covenant because if one gives in, others will be expected to do the same. We are to remain united in cruelty, ignorance, and aversion. Or we are to starve the flesh from our bones, penalizing the body for its nature, castigating ourselves for advances we are powerless to prevent. We are to make false promises then resist the attentions solicited. Basically we are to become expert liar."  

"Since he knew things at the beginning, maybe at the end he knew things too. That we had gone as far as chance would take us. That nothing is more sacred than youth or more hopeful than turning yourself over to someone and saying ~ I have this time, it is not a long time, but it is my best time and my best gift, and I give it to you. When I revisit my youth, I re-visit you"

For a reader, there isn't anything more exciting than to be thanked by an author for articulating your particular enjoyment in their work. That's what happened to me when Ms. Hamann emailed me via Goodreads... well, it was an awesome day! Yet another great reason for enthusiastic readers to connect with others, and even authors, on Goodreads!

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