"Because I am a student of literature, I will start my story on the day Charlie died. In other words, I'm beginning in the middle."
The narrator, Brett, a woman writing her dissertation on Emily Dickinson's possible love affair with her sister-in-law, is a woman whose husband has been murdered. She is, as De Gramont has her warn us, starting this story in the middle.
Brett and Charlie's life together was not always easy, or simple, or the way Brett imagined it would be. They met through Brett's best friend, Eli, who also happened to be Charlie's brother. When Eli began to show signs of schizophrenia, Brett began to view a dangerous side to her life and her choices.
De Gramont, luckily, handles Eli's mental illness with dignity and aplomb. We see him before his symptoms manifested, we see how shattering it is for Eli to attempt to process this change in himself, and how deeply it affects his life. We see why Eli would need to take his meds, and why he wouldn't want to. And we see how fiercely Charlie loves his brother, and how deeply Brett still remembers and clings to the boy she used to know.
No one in this book is a perfect character. Everyone has secrets, everyone tells lies, but that makes them human. De Gramont writes about what happens when we try our best but life has other plans, when we love so deeply we can't see clearly any more, and what happens when our past choices refuse to leave our present alone.
My very first Top Ten Tuesday!
Ten Characters You Just Didn't Click With
1. Margo Roth Spiegelman, Paper Towns, by John Green
2. Lilian Barber, The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
I love Sarah Waters. I have read every single one of her books. I really enjoyed this one as well. But Lilian came across as so selfish to me, so wishy washy, just stringing the main character along while completely laying ruin to her life. Whiny, selfish characters push me away every time.
3. Arcadia (Cadie), The Devil You Know, by Trish Doller
The whole book I just wanted to shake Cadie and tell her to stop making such stupid decisions. I really felt like her choices could not be explained away by being young, or having a crush, or wanting to see more of the world.
4. Chad, Black Chalk, by Christopher Yates
I can't say too much without giving away parts of this book, which you should definitely read yourself. Let's just say, Chad is not a person I would choose to have as a friend.
5. Lily, Mantra for Murder mystery series, by Diana Killian
Lily is a side character in this mystery series. I'm never sure if I'm supposed to dislike her because she is constantly in arguments with the main character, or if I'm supposed to feel sympathetic for her, that all she wants to do is keep the yoga studio running and making money. But regardless, Lily picks constant fights, seemingly just to have something to constantly be arguing about.
6. Humbert Humbert, Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Granted, this one may seem like a given. As a teacher of young children, Humbert just especially made my stomach turn. But this is also an example of a book where I detested the main character, but finished the book because Nabokov has such a beautiful writing style.
7. Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
I just never really understood the love for this book, Holden Caulfield particularly. To me, he is a singularly unappealing character.
8. Arthur Dimmesdale, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Confession time: This is one of my least favorite books of all time. Dimmesdale is my least favorite character for all he lets happen that he could put a stop to, and the ending does not redeem him for me.
9. Caleb Prior, Divergent series, by Veronica Roth
Family is so, so important to me, and so there was no way I was going to end up liking or respecting Caleb and the choices he made.
10. Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
This is a novel where I love the actual book (and have read it twice), but struggle to love the main character. I tend to like my female characters stronger and less wishy washy.