Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Author: Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich is such a good writer, that she was on a short-list for the Pulitzer with her last offering
Author: Louise Erdrich
A good book is a story that you enjoy. Simple, right? But what is a GREAT book? My personal answer is a great book, simply stated, is one that you can't put down. Whether the adventure is so unique that you need to see the hero win; or, the love story so strong that you need to see the couple stay together; or, the humor so fast and furious that you have to wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes and keep going, makes a great book and a fantastic read. There's also another way to tell a great book: You can't stop reading because you literally despise the characters and you want them to get what's coming to them. This is one of those stories.
The plot is simple enough. Irene is married with three kids. She met her husband, Gil, when she was very young. Gil is a painter - a rather famous one - whose only muse is Irene. He has had the nerve (and she has had the strange yearning) to be painted in many different ways. From innocent beauty, to motherhood, to being set up in horrible ways by her husband, the paintings have somehow caught on and her image (sometimes hideous) hangs in galleries and is plastered on the pages of catalogs for the world to see.
Now, Irene no longer likes Gil. The powerful love is still between them but it has turned to hate. Now, why not just get a divorce? They can't. Literally. Irene can beg for one, but the bond that they have is something they seem to need, like a sick, twisted relationship that defines them. (Think, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) The basis of the story - how the relationship begins to unravel - is when Gil finds and reads his wife's diary. What Gil doesn't know is that Irene keeps a red diary in the house that he has found, but she also keeps a blue notebook in a bank vault where she writes the actual truth. You see, Irene knows that Gil is reading her private thoughts so she decides to up the ante. She begins to write lies, making her husband believe she has had affairs with other men, and even, at one point, making him think that he's not the father of their three children.
The children are what really break my heart. Riel is a young girl who basically would like to learn all she can and take her father out. Florian, one son, is an absolute genius. He wants his father's acceptance and pride, but he also wants his father out of their lives. In addition, he wants his mother to put down her alcohol once in a while and pay attention to the fact that he and his siblings are there. Stoney, the youngest boy, loves his mother but the nightmares that he lives with on a daily basis makes him sleep with his siblings in Florian's bed at night - where they hold each other's hand while listening to their parents constantly argue downstairs. There are even two dogs in the household that try to deflect the pain and anguish from buiilding into a fight. They are like emotional savants, standing between their masters before the fights can begin. As the reader, you start to wonder why the humans aren't as smart as their dogs.
The rage I felt when a child was slapped for no reason; the sickness I felt in my stomach when a picture of Irene is drawn with a wine glass in her hand, and her own child says it's not so surprising considering that the wine glass is a part of her body, made me want to throw this book across the room. All of the above is indeed a compliment to this author. She has written many a story that reaches beyond the normal, happy life and into the depths of pain, obsession, distrust, and dishonesty. In fact, she is such a good writer, that she was on a short-list for the Pulitzer with her last offering.
One of the best lines in this book is "falling in love is also falling into knowledge." Perhaps, after reading about Irene and Gil, my advice would be that people learn about their supposed soul mate quickly, and don't make the ridiculous decisions that will cause pain to the generation coming up behind you. After all, it's not your children's fault that you slip into insanity and allow someone to step on your soul.