Monday, January 7, 2019

The Lauras

Title:  The Lauras
Author:  Sara Taylor
Publication Information:  Hogarth. 2017. 304 pages.
ISBN:  045149685X / 978-0451496850

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I could hear them arguing, the way they argued nearly every night now, their voices pitched low and rasping in that way that meant they thought they were being too quiet to wake me up."

Favorite Quote:  "It wasn't until I spent a day in the mountains, wandering for the sake of forward motion alone, that I realized that what I felt was a sort of anti-homesickness, a sick-of-home homesickness, that home for me was a place I was going to, rather than a place I could occupy."

After trying two books, I don't think I am the right reader for Sara Taylor's books. The plentiful premises of this book are all intriguing with potential to envelope the reader in a powerful, emotional story. As a coming of age story. As a story of a young woman and her mother. As a story of a road trip. As a story of a woman escaping an abusive relationship. As a story of individuals being defined by all they have encountered.

The story begins with a middle of the night departure. After one too many fights, Ma takes Alex and leaves her husband and her home. The destination is intended to be in California, far away from their Virginia home. However, the destination is not the critical part of this story. It is the journey itself.

The journey is both a physical one and a metaphorical one for both Ma and Alex. In many ways, their journeys parallel. Encounters and incidents in the present that influence Alex contain echoes of the stories that define Ma's past.

The narrator is young Alex so it is through her eyes that the reader sees Ma's journey. In many ways, this book is more Ma's story, but seen through Alex's eyes, that story remains at a distance. The theme of gender identification plays a key role in Alex's own journey. However, Alex is a thirteen year old, and as a reader, I don't feel like I really get to know her. Perhaps, that is the point being conveyed. Alex is determining who she is and taking the reader on that journey with her. Unfortunately, it becomes somewhat a Catch-22 situation. Without a feeling that I get to know her, it is challenging to want to follow Alex on her self-discovery.

There are two other reasons I find this book challenging. The first is that the structure is confusing. Ma is escaping an abusive situation. She is literally taking a trip down memory lane to tie up loose ends (a lot of them apparently). Alex is not completely aware of this; at times, she is just literally along for the ride. Yet, she is the narrator. Then, we have the fact that Alex is a teenager becoming more and more aware of herself and who she is. Her self-awareness grows with each stop on the trip and with each person she meets. It's a lot to follow.

The second and even greater reason that I am not the reader for this book is the sexual scenes in the book. In the first book I read by Sara Taylor, The Shore, the descriptions of violence overshadowed many other things in the book. In this one, it is the sexual scenes. It is just not for me. When the book is about and from the perspective of a thirteen to fifteen year old, it is even less for me. Because of the age of the main character, this book at times has a YA feel; however, the graphic sexual descriptions including those of rape firmly put it out of that character. Reader, beware.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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