29 August 2008
The secret at the core of Doreen Woods's life is that she is not Doreen Woods. She was someone else, a long time ago, when she was responsible for the war protest and the making of a bomb that took someone's life in 1971.
That's really the story of Janis Hallowell's novel She Was, which has a beautiful cover and is a transporting novel. (Literally. I finished it just the other day and when I was done I felt like I had to unsubmerge and poke my head back up into my life from out of the literary slipstream.) It's really well done, complete with Doreen's relationship with her brother Adam, who helped her go (and successfully stay) underground for nearly thirty-five years. Adam himself is a veteran of the Vietnam War, and at least part of the narrative here is his flashbacks to Vietnam, as well as her flashbacks to her protesting days.
What struck me most was not the story, or the writing, or the characterization, all of which are very well done. What struck me was the nature of Doreen's secret; that she was directly responsible for the death of ONE person, and how much that affected every day of her life immediately thereafter. It made me think, and then it made me sad. 319 beautifully written and horribly sad pages about the death of one person. How many more people will die needlessly across the world today, and how many novels could be written about them?
Hm. I'm not sending you into the weekend (and my favorite holiday weekend of all--Labor Day--finally a celebration I can get behind) on the happiest of notes. Doesn't mean I don't hope you all have a happy and a healthy.