Monday, August 25, 2008
Aberrations tells the captivating story of 21 year old narcoleptic Angel Duet, whose struggle to find her identity and past lead her through mind and heart altering experiences. Though Angel tries to lead a normal existence by going to college and holding a job, the disorder she suffers from causes her to lapse into a sleep-like paralysis and sends her consciousness floating into a dreamworld. When her father's girlfriend Carla begins to rearrange a series of cloud photographs that are the only legacy Angel's mother left behind, questions surface about the life and death of Angel's mother Betty Lou. Though her father has lovingly raised her all her life, he is emotionally closed and secretive about Betty Lou, leaving Angel desperate to discover any scrap of information about her life by whatever means necessary. Angel's search for "Mother" will lead her to many places and people, and leave her ferreting out the many secrets and emotional truths she will find along the way. In addition to her narcolepsy and her search for her mother, Angel is involved in a tangled love affair with a married man. When Angel befriends Tim, Kimmy, and Scarlett, people that can only be described as social outcasts, she initially hides her narcolepsy from them but soon realizes that they have secrets of their own. Soon Angel is involved in a world of drugs, sex and violence, through these experiences she must learn to find herself, and ultimately find the truth of "Mother" as it exists for her.
This was a very gritty book. Emotionally, it pulled no punches and most of the situations faced by the main character were portrayed very bluntly. This was, I think, a distinction in the writing,the ability to make the characters feelings vivid and visceral to the reader. The passages in this book rang with a straightforwardness of language and emotion; none of the characters were coy with their emotions or outbursts, preferring rather to lay all their cards out on the table and deal with unpleasantness head on. I liked this straightforward technique because I felt it heightened the story's impact on the reader. The growth of the main character was also handled well. Angel seemed to mature right in front of my eyes, her complacency and confusion given over to understanding in the final sections of the book. I found her character to be very believable as well. It was frightening to read about her experiences and the turmoil the disease razed in her life. She struggled with emotions that I felt were accurate reflections of what a person with a neurological disorder would have, such as having trouble forming and maintaining relationships and difficulty relating her position in society. Although her anger towards the end of the book saddened me, I thought it truly representative of a person who was somewhat disconnected from the full impact of reality and struggled with it as it was presented to her. Another aspect of this book was the concept of the secrets that we all possess, and how they affect our lives. Each character had a secret; some divulged them without much prodding while others kept them close throughout the novel. The inclusion of so many secrets in this book led me to think about the realities that exist for us as humans, hiding unappealing facets of our lives in order to be accepted and loved. From the secrets that destroy us to the secrets that set us free, each are beautifully represented in this book.
The one problem I found in this book was the use of southern dialect in the characters' speech. I found it a bit jarring and bothersome to read. I think the intended effect was to lend credibility to the fact that these were southern characters, but I would have preferred it had the author left this out. I found that it limited the power of the language throughout the book and created an incongruous result.
Overall this was a wonderfully written book. Some of the passages had the beauty of poetry, and the elegance and economy of the language really lent a lot to the greatness of this work. It was impossible not to sympathize with Angel, and even in her defiant moments she was a full and engaging character. The supporting characters were well developed as well. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who is interested in a character driven drama with eloquent plot twists.