Finished 3-20-09, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2000
The clock said noon so I went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator but the food inside looked too complicated and I peered into the cupboards but I didn’t want turkey soup, or garbanzo beans, or tuna, and I wandered into the bathroom, and without even really thinking about it, unwrapped the spare package of soap that I kept in the cabinet beneath the sink.
I bought the same brand my mother did. A bright white bar, rocking on its back, friendly. I brought it to the living room couch, and held it for awhile, smelling it, and there was a knife sitting on the side table from the previous day’s apple, which seemed convenient, and after a few minutes of just holding and smelling, I picked up the knife, sawed off a portion of the oval, set it sailing inside my mouth, and bit down.
Mona Gray is a mess. She is confused and confusing and bizarre and bizarrely lovable. She has just turned twenty and decides to buy herself an ax for her birthday, which she takes into her elementary class and hangs it up on the wall. Not surprisingly, this will lead to a few problems down the road. She feels separate from the world, almost invisible, and this propels her to destructive and absurd behavior.
All of this, as becomes apparent, is due to her father giving up on life when she was young and pulling her mother into his ever insolar world. The only person who ever really saw her, flaws and all, was her math teacher, but he fails to see enough and she resents him for it.
But now Mona has a chance of normalcy (the normalcy is relative) with a new job, students who challenge her, and a man who appreciates her unique appeal.
The book is charming in a twisted way. It was a fun, quick read. I think my favorite part was the first chapter which is a fairy tale her father told her when she was ten. It was wonderful. The only problem with the book was that all of the central players were so far removed from anyone that I know that it was difficult to really relate to Mona’s troubles. I was happy to read her story, but not as personally involved as I might have been.
Aimee Bender has a unique voice and I look forward to reading more from her.