Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Thicker Than Water by Kathryn Harrison


I got this off of a list of transgressive women's fiction that pushes boundaries and explores uncomfortable topics. When I bought this book, I was wondering why the author's name sounded familiar, and when I looked her up, I realized she was the same author who wrote a memoir about having an affair with her dad. Or at least, that's how the Goodreads reviews for that book frame it. But considering this book, and how it is allegedly THE KISS's semi-autobiographical predecessor, it's looking more like that the author was probably the victim of abuse-- from both her parents-- and these works of fiction and nonfiction are her way of reclaiming what happened to her.

THICKER THAN WATER reminded me a lot of WHITE OLEANDER. It has the same dreamy, disconnected prose that reads like someone trying to put distance between themselves and what is happening on the page. Isabel is the daughter of a mother who probably has either borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder; she is self-absorbed, jealous, possessive, and utterly uninterested in her daughter, though these interludes hint that she might have sexually abused her daughter as a baby.

This is a coming of age story set in an abusive household. The mother character's abuse is different from the father's, but both are heartbreaking, and both take their toll on Isabel, who doesn't feel at all comfortable with her body, or who she is as a person, or how she interacts with other people. By the end of the book, I felt really sad for her. This book is mostly set in the 70s and I think the author really captures that changing zeitgeist perfectly, where progress and social justice clash against infrastructural sexism and so-called traditional beliefs. It's a fascinating, but depressing read. However, if you enjoyed WHITE OLEANDER a lot, the subject matter is similar, though it lacks the poetry.

3 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.