The first and third parts of the book are narrated in first person and the middle is narrated in omniscient third person. The first part of the book makes up about half of the book and is the best part, tricking me into thinking that this was going to be a four-star read for the longest time. I felt really bad for Elizabeth, and how her cold and distant parents made her vulnerable to older men who predated on her vulnerability and took advantage of her. Even when she finally gets involved with a guy her own age, it goes tail-up, because she doesn't know what she's doing. The only positive role model in her life is a half-blind Black woman named Mrs. Hill, and when Mrs. Hill tells her creepy English teacher to stay away from her if he knows what's good for him, I wanted to cheer. Not that he listens.
The second part of the book is about Elizabeth as an adult, still not happy, still in messy relationships. Max, her teacher, has never gotten over what he considers the real love in his life (so much for his wife lol), and Huddie, Elizabeth's Black boyfriend who was sent away after their relationship became known, is married but also pining after Elizabeth. It's a messy tragedy where no one wins and reminded me a lot of Emily Maguire's TAMING THE BEAST, although not quite as miserable-- thank God. After reading part two and the concluding act in part three, I found myself wondering what the point was. In a coming of age story-- even a miserable one-- the point is showing the character growing up and finding themselves and even if bad stuff happens, the story usually ends on a note of hope. But when the author fills in those blanks for you and is like, nope, they grew up miserable and alone, WHAT is the POINT?
Amy Bloom is a very talented writer and was not afraid to portray her characters as gross and foolish human beings, no matter how unflattering the portrait, so kudos to her for that. But this is not a story I think I would like to revisit because I'm still not sure why Elizabeth got the sort of ending that she did. I would read more from this author, though. Edgy messy litfic is basically the only kind that I like, and it's hard to find people willing to go there. Even if it isn't the destination I had in mind.
2.5 out of 5 stars