Review is by Molly
Falling Under opens with a small child, Christmas and melancholy. Ask Santa for a new bike, and you might get it. You might also face yelling, and Daddy might leave on Christmas yelling that he is not coming back until Mommy calls and begs him to come home. He has already stomped away and she has already called and begged him to come back four times now.
And this time when Daddy leaves you know that there is no Santa and Daddy is not coming back.
Mara turns to Erik when all else fails. Mara's love/hate relationship with the emotionally damaged Erik, her sometime lover, who Mara sees only when she feels like she's on the edge of an abyss, is at once gratifying and non rewarding. And, once again, as the narrative begins; all else has failed.
The account moves forward quickly swinging back and forth between Mara the child who is facing life in a less than satisfying one parent home and the adult Mara, now Mara an artist, who despite talent, hopes and flair; goes on to face life living with the result of parents' enormous inability to acquit themselves as adults.
Writer Younge-Ullman's masterful writing pulls the reader straight into the often dismal, poignant, extreme and ardent life of Mara, who as an adult maintains her fighting of the debilitating issues instigated by the trauma she experienced from being raised by warring, angry parents who put themselves and their feelings, dreams and wants before that of their child.
The house divided in which Mara Foster grew up following her parents acrimonious divorce became more than Mara could face living with her mother. Ultimately her mother sent Mara to live with her father where teen aged Mara who loves both her parents faces the stress caused by a father who spent more time in jail than he did working because he spent more time drunk than not.Â
The narrative opens with a touching scene of a child facing the end of life as she knew it to fast forward to the grown up Mara is now. She is an artist who works from home because she cannot often face leaving the security of her home. Her friends include Bernadette her best friend, her agent and Erik, Lucas, Caleb, Hugo, and the men to whom she offers her body in the search to prove her worth.
Writer Writer Younge-Ullman is a first rate story teller. Her account moves easily between the present and past. We read as young Mara matures to learn more of what has really cuased her to become caught up in the small world she has made for herself, and exactly why she is finds herself powerless to face life in a more customary manner.
Younge-Ullman has keenly captured the wounding, perfidy, torment and at time utter hopelessness felt by Mara. The character portrayals as well as the at times raw, gritty verbal exchanges of Mara's dysfunctional family and her subsequent relationships are often difficult and disquieting. Reading how Mara uses her body to gratify others and rebuke herself makes for difficult reading at times. As a teacher, there are times that I see the result of teens, and younger, who find little in their own dysfunctional home lives to support or hearten themselves and see them begin to move in this direction while I too often find myself powerless to do little but watch.
It is when Mara meets a man she hopes she can love and will love her that her two stories, her past and her present smash together and the reader discovers the full tale behind Mara's powerlessness to accept herself, to love or to let herself be loved.
Falling Under is dismal in places, however it is not all gloom and drear. There are moments of funny, hilarious and hopeful as Mara moves through her life.
One scene in particular brought a chuckle as I read, Bernadette has insisted Mara come with her to one of her causes. The pair end up in a watering hole where Bernadette spots a former lover, commands, flirt with me and Mara proceeds to attempt to do so only to learn that she has flirted with Bernadette not when the former lover approached, but when the new interest Bernadette hoped to cultivate stopped to visit. Mara's character is complex. Her sadness is deep, palpable and understandable, her hopes are no less deep, palpable or understandable.
Best friend Bernadette is a superbly out of the ordinary character with her gender issues, her lifestyle, and her issues and causes. The men Mara knows are filled with their own issues, problems and angst.
The ending leaves the reader wanting more, is both settling and unsettling and is perfect for this tale.
Not for everyone, sexual scenes while integral to the plot will bother some readers. Excellent book for a book club group, therapists shelf or for those who simply want to read a well written work meant to cause the reader to pause and think. Happy to recommend.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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