A couple of months ago, my friend the beautiful and talented Kat, sent me a copy of Mary Robison’s brilliant collection Tell Me and when I read it knocked my socks right off and made me ache for days.
After I got over my heartache, I sent a gushing and heartfelt email to Mary Robison, letting her know just what her stories meant to me. She responded with such impressive grace and humility that I was determined to read as much of her work as I could find, for not only is she an amazing writer but she’s human and humane as well.
Today I finished reading her novel, Why Did I Ever and am once again floored. This is the story of Money Breton, her children–Mev and Paulie, the men in her life–Hollis and Dix, the people she works with and for, and the odd cast of characters she meets in her daily wanderings.
Told in short flashes and blurbs with only the occasional scene that is more than two or three paragraphs, and with Robison’s dry and spot on humor and her characteristic ability to make you cry without even trying, this book is nothing short of brilliant as it weaves the reader through the addled and complex brain of Money, script doctor, lover of bad men, mother of lost children, and sufferer of ADD.
Ultimately, this is the story of how Money falls apart and comes back together, continuously, and just keeps on living. She lives despite the fact that her daughter is addicted to methadone and despite the fact that her son has been brutally raped and because of that is imprisoned in a witness protection program. She lives despite the fact that the people she works for are crazy and produce crappy movies (which she writes) and despite the fact that the men she spends time with are all wrong. She lives because everywhere she sees herself or a there-but-by-the-grace-of-god version of herself. Her friends are the Deaf Woman next door and the version of herself she talks to and her cat who keeps running away, only to die in the last section.
But Money keeps going. Because that’s what you do:
Hey, Joe in the CD player and now most of the men of my town are following me. Although, according to the mirror, which does not lie, I look like a Smurf doll. So I’m wondering, and would like to know, what must life be like for young attractive women?
“Pay attention to the fucking sunset,” I tell myself, but I’ve been out here too long, I can barely keep awake.
“My dear, my dear,” I say, “it’s getting kind of late.”
So, go home, I guess. Some sleep wouldn’t hurt.
Like Money, Robison takes risks and, in the end, they pay off. Read this writer, is what I say. You won’t be sorry.