I was first drawn to this book because of the dichotomy illustrated between two types of people: those who live in gated communities with rules and cookie-cutter houses and those who don’t. It very much reminded me of my own upbringing in a small southern town, where everyone knew everyone, even the exact cars they drove.
The story was very much about that—how someone’s upbringing can define them, but it was also about many more dichotomies: those who follow the rules and those who don’t, those who are good parents and those who aren’t, those who get abortions and those who don’t. People often operate as though you have to pick sides to go through life, and while reading this book, my first instinct was to do just that—to pick the characters I liked best and try to understand why I liked them. How did they relate to my own life?
But with more complexity in the narrative, that became harder to do—just as it’s hard to do in real life. Things aren’t black and white. And if you look at life that way, you are probably going to miss out on a lot and end up resenting the people around you who see the world truly—through all the different shades of color.
This book will make you feel a lot of things—will make you emphasize with almost every character—while questioning your own beliefs. I often asked myself, What would I do in that situation?
The narrative became a bit predictable but not without enough interest to keep me going through the end.
Four out of five stars.
"She could see the similarities between these two lonely children, even more clearly than they could: the same sensitive personalities lurking inside both of them, the same bookish wisdom layered over a deep naïveté."
"The thing about portraits is, you need to show people the way they want to be seen. And I prefer to show people as I see them. So in the end I’d probably just frustrate us both."
"Even her hair was the same: piled in the same careless bundle right at the crown of her head. Beauty rolled off her in waves, like heat; the very image of her in the photograph seemed to glow."
"The next morning, at school, everything seemed back to normal, but she knew something had changed, and she held this knowledge inside her like a splinter, something she was careful not to touch."
"The young are the same, always and everywhere, he thought, and he shifted the card to gear and drove on."
"What Mia remembered of those moments was watching the blades of grass in the breeze, changing color as they went, from dark to light, like the nap of velvet when you brushed your hand over it; the way the stream of water broke itself into droplets as it splashed against the cup’s rim."
"One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on."