A few months ago, I saw the novel Ginny Moon on Amazon. Then I saw the book in a few other places, so when I saw it displayed at the library, I snatched it up and put it in my pile.
I had no idea what the novel was about other than the one comment I'd heard, which was: this book is hard to read but worth it.
I didn't think much about that, nor did I even expect to read the book this month, as I've still got a few other books to finish.
That's where I was at yesterday when I picked up Ginny Moon to scan the first chapter whilst in the bath.
Readers: I...was....hooked. HOOKED.
This is a page-turner in the very literal sense of a page turners. I couldn't read fast enough. I needed to know what would happen next. I needed to figure out what the hell was going on. I needed Ginny Moon to be okay and to know that on the next page nothing awful would happen to her.
I can't describe just how compelling this book was for me.
Around 11:00 this morning, I was still in the bath (I ran that bath at 10), furiously turning pages, when I began to feel a migraine coming on.
I kept reading.
Half an hour later, I had to completely discard the book and lie down. As I lay there, I realized my entire body was tense. I realized I was actually stressed and almost having a mild anxiety attack....because of this book.
I've been loathe to mention the plot thus far because it's riddled with such tragic, horrid details. The story is about a girl (Ginny Moon) who is autistic and has been adopted by a family after suffering years of horrific abuse by her drug-addicted mother (and her mother's boyfriend). The police finally took Ginny away (after an awful incident I won't repeat), but Ginny is anxious to get back to her mother.
I'll leave it at that. The story is gripping from the first paragraph. Like most books with unreliable narrators, there is just incredible conflict from the get-go because we don't know for certain if the person telling the story is dependable.
There is strong emotional connection with unreliable narrators. I think unreliable narrators are underdogs, and I have to admit: I love nothing more than an underdog (probably because (like many of us) I've felt like an underdog a time or two).
But here's the thing: I was getting very upset reading Ginny Moon. It didn't feel as if I could detach from the story; rather, it felt like I was in the middle of it. That story is a very hard one to be in the middle of, particularly for a mother, particularly for someone who can't watch the evening news.
Then, as I drove to pick up my son and actually cried as I turned onto the side road near his school, I wondered what happens if a person refuses to read anything painful or hard?
Do I have a social responsibility to come face-to-face with the reality of our society?
What happens if people ignore what's going on out there...inside homes with children who are neglected and abused? If we turn a blind eye, are we callous then to the troubles of others and unwilling to help them simply because we don't know what's going on?
My head throbbed as I thought about all of this. I was crying for a reason I couldn't explain. I felt utterly overwhelmed, by the images from the book and the reality of parts of the world we live in and my own mother's heart.
In the end, I cannot finish this book. I think each of us has a line we can't cross, even in what we read. I am sensitive about what I watch on TV, which movies I see, what I read and what I even hear second-hand from other people. My sisters, mother and I have a pact: we do not repeat upsetting news story to each other. We do not share the darkness.
I wonder, too, why modern fiction feels the need to go to such dark places. I feel it's definitely a trend, and it's one of the reasons I've kept modern fiction at arm's length for several years now. After having kids, anything remotely upsetting seems to have a potent effect on me.
Why does modern fiction seem to equate conflict with terror? Where is the nuance and subtlety of books written a hundred, even fifty years ago?
Perhaps I'm still just upset and unnerved by Ginny Moon.
In the end, I'll say this: Ginny Moon is brilliant. The voice is superb. I will give it a solid 5-stars because I was hooked; the writing is quite good, and I felt the conflict and story unfold not just quickly but fully. It didn't feel manipulative or cloying.
That I cannot read it isn't a reflection of the writing or the story but, perhaps, simply of my own self.
I have two requests:
1. If you've read Ginny Moon, I'd love to hear what you thought.
2. If you can think of a lovely, well-written, compelling novel that isn't bath-face-down depressing or violent or riddled with terror, I'd LOVE a recommendation.
Until then, you can find me perusing the romance section or non-fiction.