Monday, July 23, 2012

How It Ends

Some books are like miniature drills, starting by putting little scratches in your skin and then moving on to inflict deep sores that throb and ooze tears hidden tears. It's a flowing process, a painful one, and one you will literally have to emerge from when you close that last page.

Before How It Ends, Laura Wiess brought us Leftovers and Such a Pretty Girl. (Her latest book, Ordinary Beauty, also came out last year, but I'm not sure I'll get to it before the summer is over.) In all three of these, there is uniqueness, starkness, and such emotion. How It Ends is the longest at around 350 pages and covers such ground that you won't want to speed through it too quickly.

It starts fairly simply, switching between the perspectives of teenage Hanna and her aging neighbor Helen. There are some parallels and contrasts between them, some touching moments, some harsher moments. But somewhere around the halfway point, something changes.

Layers come in, endless depths strive into view, and any and all emotions plunge into your mind through the written words. Because nothing is glossed over (sensitive readers be aware), a complete life picture can be created. You can choose many focuses through which to look at this book: feminism, youth and aging, death, sickness, romantic love, familial love, friendship, generation gaps, connections between generations, nature, medicine, school, parenthood, hidden histories, human rights, animal rights. It's fairly dense, but also so easy to read.

The language in this book is perfect. The characters' voices are their voices. Some parts read almost like a journal, some more like one person speaking to another, and each style is appropriate and fitting for each section's content. This book is stunning.

Laura Wiess is an artist.

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