Monday, March 26, 2012

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream — 320 pgs

Clementine Pritchard is a very successful and lucrative artist who has decided that she’s giving herself a thirty day countdown to suicide. Caustically funny, irreverent and wickedly inventive, Clementine has secrets buried in her past that are so devastating and horrific that they have affected her day to day life as long as she can remember. She’s also decided to abandon the medications that were keeping her raging mental illnesses at bay and is slowly sinking into deeper and darker pits of apathy and self-abuse. But Clementine has given herself these thirty days to tie up loose ends: things like finding her poorly behaved cat a new home and buying herself a cemetery plot overlooking the city. She also wants to find her father, the man who abandoned their fledgling family many years ago and left no trace behind. As she embarks on her plan, things begin to go awry as unexpected events begin to change things in drastic ways. When two secrets in particular begin to disrupt Clementine’s plans for a painless and well considered suicide, she’s left reeling, and must decide if she can ever forgive and learn to live on or if she’ll carry her new knowledge to the grave. In this poignant and darkly comic novel, the reader comes to meet the enigmatic and pragmatic Clementine Pritchard and to see things from the perspective of a damaged woman who’s just too tired to hold on anymore.

Clementine was a really interesting character. Though she’s irascible and ill-behaved, there’s a lot about her to admire. Her chutzpah and assertiveness were things that I greatly admired, and despite her situation being dire, Clementine was oddly relaxed and competent in the plans she was making. In order to gain the support she needs, she lies about having a terminal illness. While ordinarily that would make me dislike a character, it was oddly fitting for Clementine and I could see her mental wheels spinning on why this could be acceptable. She has people in her life that she wants to spare, and for that reason, she can’t tell them of her plan. She wants to say goodbye before it’s too late, but nothing is going to change her mind and she wants no opposition to the plans she’s made for herself.

The secrets of Clementine’s origins were painful and grotesque. When I realized what her childhood was like, I was floored that she was able to have gone on this long. Mental illness ran in the family and was only a precursor to what inevitably took her childhood away before its time. Critical thought went into her plan, and when I finally realized why she had made this final plan, it stirred a deep well of sympathy in me that never abated. As she goes about putting her plan into action, she finds herself the star of many misadventures and discovers that the life she’s giving up isn’t what she had first thought it to be. I liked her because she was bitingly funny and acerbic, but on a deeper level, I found her to be a tragic figure, masking her iniquities with sarcasm and wit.

Food plays a big role in this book as well. Now that Clementine is off her medication, food is suddenly appetizing again and she begins to share luscious and exotic feasts with her friends and family. As a reader who loves foodie books, this aspect of the novel was surprising and very welcome. It was easy to mentally slip into the seat beside her and vicariously enjoy the amazing treats that she was serving up for herself and her guests. I suppose her reasoning was that she wanted to have one last taste of everything, and this in itself was wonderful; but it was also a reflection of the seriousness of her plan and her desire to really go through with it. I got the feeling that there were some elements of emotional hunger that were being fed bodily, which was satisfying to her for awhile but left lingering feelings of resentment.

I know this is going to sound strange, but this book had some really great instances of comedy strewn about it that really got my attention and made me realize that it was much more than a book of deep seated tragedy. Clementine was just so plucky, and with so little time left, she didn’t take crap from anyone. This meant that she did a lot of wild, unpredictable, funny and outrageous things that not many would do. I think she figured she had nothing to lose. The conclusion packs a serious punch, and when Clementine reaches her suicide deadline, a new problem arises that could never have been predicted. With all she finds out about herself and her family, this new revelation rocks her to the core. Will Clementine go through with it and finally be at peace, or will she give life another chance and discover a hidden reserve of power she didn’t know she had?

I loved this book for its mix of the comedic and the deeply resonant way in which Clementine struggled. It’s a serious book for sure, but there are some blissful moments of laughter among the brambles of pain and heartache. It’s also a must for foodies out there. In capturing Clementine’s dilemma, Ream does what few authors manage to do: turn a tragic decision into something that reveals the deep inner strength of her protagonist. A very smart and involving read. Recommended.


Author Photo About the Author

Ashley Ream got her first job at a newspaper when she was sixteen. After working in newsrooms across Missouri, Florida and Texas, she gave up deadlines to pursue fiction. She lives in Los Angeles and works at a nonprofit.

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TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Wednesday, March 14th:A Musing Reviews
Thursday, March 15th:As I turn the pages
Friday, March 16th:Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, March 19th:Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, March 20th:A Soul Unsung
Wednesday, March 21st:The Lost Entwife
Thursday, March 22nd:Book Hooked Blog
Monday, March 26th:Life In Review
Tuesday, March 27th:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, March 28th:Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, March 29th:Into the Hall of Books


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

27 comments:

Anita said...

Ok loan or give me this one if you have it. This book sounds good. Wonderful review Heather.

Brooke said...

I think I'm sold on the foodie bits! The rest will just be a bonus.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds wonderful; adding it to my eBook wishlist.

Beth F said...

Wow this sounds like a mix of things (sad, funny, food) that you would think wouldn't work but does. Very intriguing.

bermudaonion said...

When I read the premise of this book, I wondered if the author would be able to pull it off. It sounds like she did a wonderful job!

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This one reminds me of the Elegance of the Hedgehog. The tragic but comedic approach is similar. I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

Jenny said...

I was wondering how this was and had worried it would be too depressing. Sounds like it turned out to be a really thoughtful book!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I love your reviews! You've made me add the title to my TBR list. Thanks :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting review! It sounds depressing to me too though, in spite of the other elements you identified!

Ti said...

I worry that the handling of this topic might make suicide sound like a fun option. Did you ever get that impression while reading it?

I like it when an author mixes dark with light,. but realistically, if she was afflicted with mental illness and was off her meds (a double whammy!) the hole would be too deep to laugh over. Just my opinion. Mental illness has freckled my family for years and it's never funny.

On the flip side, I think maybe more people will pick this up knowing it's not all doom and gloom.

Harvee said...

I didn't think I'd want to read this book, but your review changed my mind. Now I'll be looking for it! (I'm a foodie too!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I always enjoy your insightful reviews, Heather! Who would have thought that a book about a thirty-day countdown to making a decision on suicide could have the humor carried off so well? Sounds like it did, and considerably so. What a tough topic, and it sort of reminds me of how *they* always say that comedians are some of the saddest people. I might have to check this one out.

nomadreader said...

This one sounds so interesting. I love that the author could infuse humor in the midst of tragedy. Great review!

Zibilee said...

Ti,
I totally agree, mental illness is never funny, no matter what the circumstances are, but this book had a black streak of comedy that seemed to lessen the brutality of the situation that Clementine was in. I don't think that it in any way advocated or glamorized suicide in any way, and the reasons for Clementine's decision were so painful and poignant. I think without the humor, it would have been a very bleak and scary read, but with it's inclusion, there was something so human about the whole thing.

Nymeth said...

I definitely think it's possible to write funny books about difficult subjects without making light of them in the process. Not all writers have the ability to do that, but I really admire the ones that do.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I was really intrigued by this one when you told me about at lunch and now I REALLY am interested in reading it. I loved your insightful review and I think I would really appreciate this book.

Athira said...

This is a new-to-me title and it does sound fabulous. I typically enjoy books featuring characters with mental illnesses, so this is a book I should check out.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh, I was almost on the blog tour for this but it filled before I could get in on it. I've been reading/hearing SUCH good things about it. I'm so glad it was enjoyable for you.

Jenners said...

The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it. I love that comedy is mixed in with such a serious subject matter -- those kinds of reads are like catnip to me. I'm putting it on my list!!

Lisa said...

I had some inkling what this book was about as I started reading your review so I was pretty surprised to read the phrase "caustically funny" right off the bat. Any book that can combine pain like this and humor is a book I want to read.

Darlene said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one too Heather. It's one of my favorites so far this year.

Amy said...

I think it's wonderful that there are some very funny passages in this book. I'm so glad you included that in your review. A main character who wants to kill herself, a difficult childhood etc. would make for her dark, sad book so it's great that the author is able to inject some humore into the story.

Something about Clementine intrigues and touches me. I had hoped to review this book but the slots were all filled. It's probably better that way because I can get a copy to read when I have more time to read what I want.

This is a fantastic review, I really enjoyed reading it.

Suko said...

Very thoughtful review! You always make me want to read what you've written so glowingly about.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I was just looking at this book today on Goodreads and wondering if it was good. Your review makes me want to pick it right away! This sounds exactly like the type of novels I've been looking for in the last few weeks, especially with the surprising ending. Thank you for a great review!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

It is tricky to deal with mental illness and suicide without getting to depressing OR making too light of the situation, but it sounds like this book does just that.

Thanks for being on the tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page.

Jenny said...

Sounds interesting! I'm always glad when authors can get at the funny things in non-funny subjects -- because even when matters are very grim indeed, there's always something to make you laugh. So I like seeing that in books.

Jules said...

This sounds like a very well written, character driven book - and one that would have been great for the mental illness challenge I participated in last year. I think this one will be added to my TBR pile, the book sounds like one I'd really enjoy. Thanks for the great review!

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