how my year of reading women starts out with a bang

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Someone loaned me this novel during a dinner, after finding out I was reading women exclusively for a year. “Take your time with it,” he said. “But not too long.”

I moved it to the top of my pile.

I love Cormac McCarthy. I love William Faulkner. I sharpened my carnivorous reading teeth on Stephen King as a mere tot. I am no literary wuss. I am okay with darkness.

I’m telling you right now, this novel makes Blood Meridian look like a delightful frolic on a breezy spring day in a field of flowers with white ponies and balloons. It makes The Shining look like Goodnight Moon. 

Do not read it if you can’t stomach some horrible human truths, if you can’t process gruesome imagery. The documentary style fiction mash-up, while not pretty, is gorgeously skilled (Kudos to her translator Ellen Elias-Bursac as well). I sometimes couldn’t tell the difference between what she had made up and the actual historical files she provided about the Holocaust.

As I tried to wrap my head around her approach, I kept thinking I needed to read on and if I could just get past the horrendous passage I was reading, I would be okay because surely she would backth-2 off and give me a breather. There are no breathers. Dasa Drndic is relentless, unapologetic, death-metal-hardcore-grinding gears-type writing (I mean, just look at her). Not. For. Ninnies. Not for anyone who would rather not face the horrors of the Holocaust without frill, without emotion, certainly sans sentimental hedging.  She doesn’t mince words when it comes to the Catholic Church, the Red Cross, and Switzerland, just for a start.

I learned too much. I writhed as I read. I prayed vigorously never to find myself on this woman’s bad side.

Halfway through reading I looked up and said to no one in particular, “He hates me.” I was speaking of the man who gave me the book. Why would anyone subject someone they like to this?

And then I was done.

As unpleasant as the reading of this novel is, everyone should have to do it, or at least apprehend the importance of the facts contained within its pages. I’m guilty of shying away from Holocaust stories, of saying I’ve seen too much, I’ve read too many. But not like this. This one looks at it square. So get ready to have your eyelids cranked open a la Clockwork Orange. It’s such a ride, and with the most solid of hands at the wheel.    

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