Wonderfully readable with incredible moving stores. Gay is at her best when she merges the supernatural with female rights, or when the stories of male indiscretion (being euphemistic) shake you to the core. I am not sold on some of the love stories - they feel contrary to female rights. That might just be me at the moment though. Great reading.
this was a series of well written and engaging short stories. that being said, I didn't feel that I learned anything from their content or messages. the use of the Sexual dynamics throughout, i felt, reduces considerations of feminism to this experience alone. perhaps I just did not understand Roxane intent.
3.5★ "For difficult women, who should be celebrated for their very nature." Roxane Gay's introduction.
I really liked the first stories – the writing, the characters, the situations. But as it went on, too many of the women (and the men and occasional friends) were like replicas of each other. Whether wealthy or dirt poor, they were difficult for those around them.
I also had the feeling that almost all the women seemed to be defined by the men in their lives. In some cases, they were men they had left, while many were men they were with but needed to leave.
The stories were punctuated with physical battering and sex, often combined. The thoughtful, sensitive people who helped offer sympathy or pick up the pieces afterwards did so by stroking, tracing lines on bodies, and ultimately bathing these walking wounded. It became a theme so much that I would wait for the bath scene. This was sometimes preceded or followed by yet another sex scene.
If I’d read a story or two in a publication, I would have thought they were terrific. Or a novella of the connected ones, maybe.
There are a couple of groups of connected stories, where the characters are all living in a Florida retirement community, for example, which created some added interest.
Then there are a few stories with twins or siblings close in age with strong connections to each other. There are pole dancers, short order cooks, a professor, and an engineer, among others. Many are looking for a way out of their current situation, but a lot are just resigned.
Here, two inseparable sisters are travelling across the country with the older one's boyfriend. The younger asks the older about him.
“She pressed her forehead against mine. Something wet and heavy caught in my throat. ‘Why him?’
‘I’d be no good to a really good man and Darryl isn’t really a bad man.’
I knew exactly what she meant.”
Granted, these girls, victims of childhood abduction, have better reason than most to accept safety over love. But how about Caridad? She works in a gym and has to fend off her charming boss.
“He held her elbow too firmly, his teeth bared, wet. He loved to recline on the wieght bench, spreading his legs wide. He always wore loose shorts and no underwear during their sessions, letting his limp cock hang lazily against his left thigh. No matter how much weight he lifted, he grunted extravagantly. Caridad pretended not to notice. . .
She pushed Sal away, negotiating the complexity of making her point without getting fired.”
She needs the job, and her boyfriend’s hardly worth going home to.
“They had been dating for four years and their relationship was mostly unremarkable. She was smart enough to want more but tired enough to accept the way things were.”
That pretty much sums up the situation in many stories. But there are a few where the women desperately seek to be hurt to offset other, unbearable pain. Like pinching your finger as soon as you stub your toe to take your mind off your toe. We keep trying to fool ourselves.
It makes for 'difficult' reading – beatings, punches, bruises, rough sex and rapes. Gay writes poignancy well and describes some very sensitive scenes, too. I will look for something else she’s written, because I like her writing. I just found this book uneven.
Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the review copy from which I’ve quoted (so quotes may have changed.)