Ben Jelloun, Tahar. This Blinding Absence of Light. Translated by Linda Coverdale. New York: New Press, 2002.
Reason read: This one was chosen a little off schedule. I needed something for the Portland Public Library 2018 Reading Challenge for the category of a book that has won an International Dublin Literary Award.
This book was a hard, hard , hard read. Based upon true events, it is the story of an inmate of the Tazmamart Prison. Aziz was a soldier who took part in a failed assassination attempt on King Hassan II of Morocco. Hassan ordered his political enemies to be held in an underground desert concentration camp where they were kept in 6 x 3′ cells devoid of light or proper ventilation. Aziz and twenty-one other prisoners locked away without proper food or sanitary conditions. Many men went insane or died from uncontrolled illnesses and starvation. After nearly two decades in captivity, only four survived their experience. Because Ben Jelloun takes Aziz’s experiences and fictionalizes it with a first person narrative the story becomes even more intimate and heartbreaking.
If you are ever wallowing in your own pathetic cesspool of pity, try barricading yourself in a darkened room with only a hole to piss and crap in, a ceiling less than five feet from the floor, no heat or air conditioning with only a bucket of water too filthy to drink and starchy food too filled with maggots to eat. Or, if you are short on time just read this book. Your little life can’t be as bad.
Here is the heart of the story, “The hardest, most unbearable silence was that of light” (p 51).
Lines that stopped me short (and there were a lot of them), “What does a man think when the blood of other men runs down his face?” (p 6), “I felt death making itself at home in his eyes” (p 12), “Strangely enough, becoming time’s slave had set him free” (p 29), “It was a question of chance: you tell yourself you have plenty of time, you save a few books for later…and forget to read them” (p 68), “That night I tried again to sleep on the bed. It was just too comfortable for me” (p 181).
Author fact: Ben Jelloun has also won the Prix Maghreb award in 1994.
Book trivia: This Blinding Absence of Light won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2004.
Nancy said: Pearl said This Blinding Absence of Light is “a difficult, soul-destroying read” (p 162). Interestingly enough, someone on Wikipedia said prisoners were not “actively” tortured. I find this really interesting. The decision to withhold light and food IS a form of active torture. True, these people were not tortured with acts resulting in pain but they faced starvation to the point of eminent death. I’m guessing the author of the Wiki page has never been hungry to the point of starvation; has never gone without light; has never experienced confining and unsanitary conditions for an extended period of time or faced the threat of scorpions stinging them in the dark. As Ben Jelloun said, “the entire body had to suffer, every part, without exception” (p 3).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Morocco” (p 162).
I may not be happy with my personal life in regards to fitness, health, and so on, but I am definitely satisfied with the number of books I was able to check off my Challenge list for the month of December. Special thanks to my kisa who did all the driving up and back and around the great state of Maine.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (EB/print).
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
- Time Machines: the Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written edited by Bill Adler, Jr.
- The Black Tents of Arabia: (My Life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan.
- Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer.
- Stet: a Memoir by Diana Athill (EB and print).
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB and print).
- Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett. Confessional: I did not finish this.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (EB/print/AB).
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. New York: Anchor Books, 1997.
Reason read: the Mount Everest disaster occurred on May 10th 1996.
Jon Krakauer was given an assignment by Outside Magazine to join a climbing expedition ultimately going to the top of Mount Everest. Being an avid mountaineer he thrilled at the chance to join a professional team to reach the highest summit in the world. What he didn’t anticipate was being witness to one of the worst Everest disasters in the mountain’s history.
As Karakuer takes us to higher elevations he not only gives the reader a play by play of the events unfolding at each camp, he also details the physical and psychological effects wreaking havoc on the climbers, adventurer and Sherpa alike. It’s a grueling quest and Krakauer never lets you forget the danger.
It has been said that the mountaineering community is unique unto themselves. Never before was this more apparent than when Kraukauer described climbers so hellbent on reaching the top that they would push on past half dead individuals lying in the snow, slowly freezing to death. Or step casually over the legs of a half buried dead man…
Despite the dangers of climbing such high elevations, the challenge continues to draw thousands to Everest. It is an industry unto itself, making millions for guides, the sports corporations looking to sponsor them, and the Sherpas looking to lead the way.
I devoured this book. I found it was very easy to lose track of time and read 70-80 pages in one sitting.
Quotes I liked, “I thrilled in the fresh perspective that came from tipping the ordinary plane of existence on end” (p 23) and “Problem was, my inner voice resembled Chicken Little; it was screaming that I was about to die, but it did that almost every time I laced up my climbing boots” (p 101).
Author fact: I think Krakauer is best known for Into the Wild, but I am reading two others, Iceland and Where Men Win Glory.
Book trivia: There are the obligatory black and white photographs of the victims and a few of the mountain. Unlike a book a read recently where every photo was of the author, Jon Krakauer isn’t in a single one.
Nancy said: Krakauer’s book “sets the standard for personal adventure books” (p 8).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Adventure By the Book: Nonfiction” (p 8).
This is the first month since September that I don’t have some kind of race looming. It feels weird to not worry about the run. I guess I can concentrate on the books:
- Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute – in honor of the month the movie was released.
- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May (AB).
- Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez – on honor of the Pan Ramjay festival held in May.
- Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend – in honor of Mother’s Day.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.
- Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton – to continue the series started in March to honor the month of Norton’s passing.
Something new! I just discovered archive dot org! They are brilliant! I have been able to find a bunch of the books I have on my Challenge list, including two for this month. That means I will be able to leave the print at home and still read on my lunch break!
Brown, Larry. Fay. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2000.
Reason reading: December is Southern Literature Month. Fay takes place in Mississippi.
You can’t help but fall in love with Fay…in the beginning. Despite being abused by animals and humans alike beautiful seventeen year old Fay Jones holds out hope she can be friends with either of them. Preferably both at some point in her young life. But for now she is eager to find Biloxi after running away from a potentially dangerous and definitely drunk father. With only the clothes on her back and two dollars hidden in her bra, she is uneducated and generous; thoughtful in a complicated and naive way. She’ll trust anyone who can steer her in the right direction. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as she hitches a ride with three drunk boys back to their trailer deep in the woods. You again become breathless when a cop picks her up and takes her home. Fay’s ignorance makes people want to help her and hurt her all at the same time. I must admit, over time Fay’s willingness (eagerness?) to fall in with some really bad people grew wearisome. She’s either intensely shallow or so stupid she can’t help herself. She doesn’t recognize when someone is taking advantage of her. When she goes from being a blushing virgin to an easy lay in one week’s time I felt myself losing interest in her fate and willing the character I did care about to stay away from her.
Because Brown will make you care about some people. Even Fay.
My biggest pet peeve? Brown is almost too coy, too cute and dare I say, cheesy? about creating reader suspense at times. His first mention of Alesandra elicited an eye roll from me. One inappropriate remark that spoke volumes in a sea of other details and then nothing for pages and pages. It’s the proverbial gun on a table. Sooner or later it has to go off.
The only line I liked, “Then he was standing there with his neatly pressed gray trousers, a blue stripe down each leg, a gun on his hip and a crisp shirt, his nameplate and his shiny brass and all the authority she feared” (p 34).
Author fact: Brown also wrote Joe and Dirty Work. I’m reading both. Here is the crazy thing. For the first time I have started tracking the approximate time certain books will come up on the schedule. According to the master calendar I will be reading Joe in December of 2037 and Dirty Work in October of 2040.
Book trivia: This should be a movie. It has everything. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Strippers, prostitutes and drug dealers. Explosions and violence. And don’t forget beautiful scenery of the Mississippi gulf coast.
Nancy said: Nancy said “any list of grit-lit practitioners worth its whiskey would also include Larry Brown” (p 106). She also said Fay drifts through life “serenely” and “almost untouched” by the violence around her. I don’t know if I would agree. Fay’s traumas haunt her constantly. I would see her more as resilient; trying to push on despite the abuses. She has a steely determination to survive.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very appropriate chapter called “Grit Lit” (p 106).
August. The last gasp of summer before everyone starts thinking about back-to-school clothes, back-to-school school supplies and back-to-school attitudes. I know my college has already adopted the attitude now that the athletes and international students have started arriving on campus. August was quiet compared to July’s crazy traveling. But, for books it was:
- The All-Girl Football Team by Lewis Nordan ~ Nordan is my emotional train wreck.
- Zarafa: a Giraffes’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris by Michael Allin ~ in honor of Napoleon’s birth month even though Napoleon is a teeny part of the story
- Zel by Donna Jo Napoli ~ the clever, psychological retelling of Rapunzel.
- The Meaning of Everything: the Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester ~ in honor of National Language Month, but I didn’t finish it. Not even close.
- Undaunted Courage by Simon Winchester ~ a really interesting account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles ~ probably one of my all-time favorite books.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program: I started reading Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann. Review coming in September.
For fun I read:
- fit = female: the perfect fitness and nutrition game plan for your unique body type by geralyn b. coopersmith ~ the cover of the book didn’t use capital letters so neither did i.
- Nutrition for Life: The no-fad, no-nonsense approach to eating well and researching your healthy weight by Lisa Hark, Phd, RD & Darwin Deen, MD ~ this is a really, really informative book.
Trachtenberg, Peter. The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning. New York: Little, Brown & co., 2008
This was an off-list addition. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. April had already been a hard month and here I am, deciding to add to the drama by deciding to read a book about suffering. It’s perverse but I find comfort in my little, uneventful life when I am reminded of fates worse than mine…much, much worse than mine. It’s the same reason why I watch ugly shows about murder and drug addiction. It’s my constant reminder that anyone, at anytime, can fall from grace. And fall hard.
But, anyway, back to Calamities. I will be honest. I picked up the book after reading a dedication. After researching the recipients I realized I needed to know more. It wasn’t enough to be aware and move on. I wanted knowledge. Who were these people and why did they die? Notice I didn’t say how? That much was obvious. Their tragedy deserved more than two seconds of my time. Which led me to Peter Trachtenberg’s book.
The Book of Calamities covers man-induced sufferings as well as the ones seemingly without explanation. The answer to each catastrophe lies in simple words like religion, nature, sanity, hatred, illness but try explaining those words beyond dictionary etymology and terminology. What exactly IS hatred? What drives two religions to war? How can Mother Nature be so cruel to the ignorant? Who defines mental illness and calls it insanity? These are hard questions but, Trachtenberg asks an even bigger question – why is suffering such a shock to us? It happens all the time. It happens everywhere. Why aren’t we more prepared for catastrophe? Is it a cultural thing? For some reason we, as a society, have this sense of entitlement to happiness; this sense of denial that bad things always happen to someone, anyone, else but us. Not so.
I didn’t have favorite quotes in this book, but there was one particular event that stood out. Here is the quote: “The first thing they did for me was to make me stop, kindly, with care not to make me feel any more foolish than I already felt, for who feels more foolish than a failed suicide?” (p 95). The reason why this passage stood out to me is this – in my friend’s suicide note he made reference to being embarrassed by possible failure. He understood suffering and didn’t want to make compromises to accommodate that suffering. Here’s the thing – he didn’t need to be embarrassed. He didn’t fail on May 10th, 1993.
Azzopardi, Trezza. The Hiding Place. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000.
I have to start by saying I would love to meet William Gedney just to ask him about the photograph on the cover of The Hiding Place. I guess Francine Kass (who designed the cover) would be more appropriate to ask of these questions. Nevertheless, here are the things I would ask of either:
- The girls are in the kitchen obviously paring something (apples? potatoes?). Why do they all have one leg up; why are they standing like storks?
- The painting of the Last Supper – was that meant to be symbolic since the girls are standing in a kitchen?
- There is a fourth pair of feet and evidence of a little knee behind the child leaning on the refrigerator. Who is she and why isn’t she more visible? I took this to be Dolores, the narrator of The Hiding Place. She is the youngest daughter and paid attention to the least. More symbolism?
The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi is sad, sad, sad. Dolores Gauci is the youngest of six daughters born to Maltese immigrants Frankie and Mary. Her view on the world is both tragic and innocent. She is at once stoic and childish; solemn and naive. What Dolores sees is a family slowly dismantled by a gambling and always losing father. As her siblings are bartered away Dolores must face a grim childhood with fewer and fewer protections as even her mother’s will to survive slips away. Serving as the backdrop for the Gauci family is the 1960s landscape of Cardiff, Wales, an immigration town populated with citizens hardened enough to do just about anything to survive.
Favorite lines: “Her fury travels down the spoon and into Luca’s dinner. I am breast-fed: I get rage straight from the source” (p 22), “As with all truth, there is another version” (p 75), and “She’ll be scrubbing the steps again, probably – it’s a job best done in anger” (p 126).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “The Immigrant Experience” (p 123).
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Sorrows of Young Werther. Boston: Frances A. Niccolls & Co., 1902.
There are so many little facts about this 134 page story that I just loved! First, I find it enticing that this eighteenth-century novel was written anonymously. It was if it really was meant to be autobiographical. There are many similarities between Young Werther and Johann Goethe. Another interesting tidbit about The Sorrows of Young Werther is that the story was both banned and embraced in eighteenth-century Germany.
To put it simply, Sorrows of Young Werther is about a young, impressionable artist who moves to a new, yet fictional town. He is enamored with his surroundings and shares his new-found joy with his friend, Wilhelm, through enthusiastic, vividly descriptive letters. For the first month the letters contain glorious accounts of the landscape, the sights, the sounds, and the people – everything around him. After that first month though, Werther’s entire focus centers on a young woman he met at a party. It’s obsession at first sight and he can think of nothing else but to be with her constantly. Unfortunately, Werther’s affections are doomed as the object of his affection, Charlotte, is already engaged to be married to a “worthy” gentleman. In an effort to remain near to Charlotte, Werther befriends her husband-to-be. Things becomes complicated (as they also do in this kind of situation). Of course this love triangle cannot last and ultimately ends in tragedy.
Telling lines: “We should deal with children as God deals with us, – we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions” (p 35), “…a man under the influence of violent passion loses all power of reflection, and is regarded as intoxicated or insane” (p 47), and “I sometimes cannot understand how she can love another, how she dares love another, when I love nothing in this world so completely, so devotedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have no other possession” (p 81). In these three quotes we see Young Werther growing more and more obsessed with Charlotte. It can only end badly and as we see on the very last page, it does, “The body was carried by labourers. No priest attended” (p 135).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Epistolary Novels: Take A Letter” (p 79).
Hart, Brian. Then Came the Evening. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009.
At first glance I was afraid of this book. The description sounded devastating: Bandy Dorner returns from Vietnam to find his home burned to the ground, his wife having an affair and somehow he is responsible for killing a cop…Yikes.
I took a long time to read Then Came the Evening. I found myself savoring passages, rereading pages. Brian Hart has a way with words and the sentences he forms with them are devastating. In a word Then Came the Evening is grim. It is lips pressed together on the face of reality. It is looking for truth in a shattered mirror. Bandy, once a loser, is always a loser whether he tries to be or not. While his wife, Iona, and son, Tracy, come back to him, they returned to him broken and ruined. His wife is no longer his wife and his son was never his son. History ties Iona to Bandy and haunts their future. DNA ties Tracy to Bandy and forces a relationship. In the struggle to make sense of their life together Bandy, Iona and Tracy never completely trust one another. They dance around old feelings and new guilt. Their future together looks gray and foreboding. Even the landscape is sullen and unsatisfying.
There was only one instance that bothered me. Bandy and his son are watching television, trying to have a conversation beyond talking about the weather. This is their first night together and are talking about their health problems and physical limitations. Tracy asks Bandy, “What about you? The last time I saw you, you were a beast.” (p 120) What last time? Does he mean he’s seen pictures of his father when he was healthy? When Iona left with her lover she was pregnant. Bandy didn’t even know he had a son until Tracy was 18 years old. When, exactly, was the last time Tracy saw his father?
Edited to add: Someone pointed out to me Tracy saw his father in prison (thanks for catching that). Here’s what bothers me now – why was that scene so forgettable? Why didn’t I remember it? Was it because it made me uncomfortable?
Boyle, T. Coraghessan. The Tortilla Curtain. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.
From the very first page this book had me cringing. The back cover of Tortilla Curtain reads, “…from the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact…” The opening scene is the freak accident and it sets the tone for the entire story. To be honest I cringed my way through the entire book. Like watching a movie with one eye squeezed shut I could barely stand what devastating thing would happen next. There is nothing more tragic than misguided trust laced with preconceived notions about another individual. Reminiscent of House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III Tortilla Curtain is the story of two couples hopelessly fated to forever misjudge and distrust each other. The color of their skin provides a blinder for each pair. While how they react to their blindness differs from person to person their prejudices identically driven. Delaney Mossbacher and his second wife, Kyra, are a well-to-do couple living in the newly gated community of Arroyo Blanco. They worry about coyotes taking their family pets and the real estate market (Kyra is a successful realtor). Below them, scraping out an existence in the dessert are Candido Rincon and his wife, America, two illegal immigrants from Mexico. They worry about where they will get their next meal and when they will be sent back across the border. Two totally different worlds living within yards of one another. Inevitably the two will collide with disastrous results.
Favorite line: “He took the phone off the hook, pulled the shades and crept into the womb of language” (p 32). I wish I had more time to do just that.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Growing Writers” (p 107).
Bernstein, Richard, and the staff of the New York Times. Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero. New York: Times Books, 2002.
Today was a day just like September 11, 2001. Crystal bright blue skies. Not too warm, not too cold. Almost perfect weather. Weather like that makes me suspicious – on edge. Every since 9/11/01. You probably feel the same way. Not a cloud in the sky makes me nervous. I stare up expecting it to fall down. I still can’t watch CNN reports from that day. It’s still too fresh in my mind, still too soon. Eight years later and I’m thinking it’s almost too soon to be reading Out of the Blue. Still.
Out of the Blue takes us chapter by chapter through what on September 11, 2001 – from the transformation of Osama bin Laden and the emergence of Al Qaeda to the trainings of the terrorists and finally, to the day we will never forget. A day that some are calling the end of innocence. Intermingled in this “explanation” for what happened and how it all began are the personal biographies of some of the victims. It is not clear how Bernstein chose these Americans to be included in Out of the Blue, but the inclusion of their stories illustrates just how unexpected these attacks really were. Normal, everyday routines carried out by normal everyday people were shattered in the blink of an eye. Bernstein documents the terrible reality of when the planes hit; the choking smoke, the inferno flames, the lethal leaking fuel, the rescue workers rushing into the buildings while terrified victims either rushed out or jumped to their deaths. The entire New York Times staff is to be applauded for their thoroughness for facts and details that make Out of the Blue more of a matter-of-fact (and less of a sensationalized) account of a mind numbing tragedy.
Aside from the typo on page 246 I enjoyed Out of the Blue as much as I could…considering the subject matter.
Tragic lines: “Whole families, traveling together on the hijacked planes, were obliterated together” (p 7), and “After denying for months that there would have been any way for American law enforcement or intelligence to have detected the terrorist plot beforehand, he [Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller] admitted that important clues to the coming disaster were ignored or neglected by the FBI” (p 157).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “9/11” (p 171).
My faith in marriage has been rocked. Everything I believed in previously is a myth, a lie, a mirage set up to hurt and disappoint and destroy.
What do you do when you marry with the understanding, the trust that what you are doing is forever and suddenly you find out it has been one big, humongous lie? The house with the heavy mortgage is really built out of cards, not love. Suddenly there is a big bad wolf at your door ready to huff and puff and steal your happiness away. Your 9-5 to support your loved ones was a waste of time. Working hard for the failing.
They say hurtful things like I Never Loved You. I Used You. I Have Been Waiting For Someone Else. Someone Else. All This Time. Ten Years Means Nothing To Me. I Will Get The Kids And The House. Mine. All Mine. Head spinning. Heart in a tailspin. Is there any way to pull out of this freefall? Is there a way to snap out of this stunned disbelief and wake from the nightmare?
Friends shake their heads in shock. Didn’t see this coming we all mutter. Who sides with whom? Rumors of the evil kind circulate among the unkind. Cocaine. Cheating. The accusations are so outrageous how could anyone not see it coming? It’s just right there if you know where to look.
Kisa and I look at each other differently. That thing we argued about yesterday seems so petty today. We tiptoe around our relationship like it is a sleeping child. What we once considered a rock is now a wispy, translucent spider’s web. What we once took for granted is back in consideration. We are considerate. Nothing lasts forever.
There was a reason I stood behind my veil and shook like a leaf. There was a reason why I kept him waiting at the alter. Kept him waiting, but didn’t leave him. I waited for the nerves to calm, the strength of love to flood my veins. In light of recent developments I can’t help but be reminded of that day I almost said I don’t.
We say no one saw this coming. Doesn’t matter. We are all in still in shock.
Or are we?
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1970.
The LibraryThing Review:
“Because The Bluest Eye doesn’t have a traditional storyline plot the reader is free to concentrate on the complexities of the characters. The entire work is like a patchwork quilt of human suffering. Each character a different patch of sadness and survival. With each square, the ugly underbelly of society is exposed: poverty, racism, rape, incest, abuse, violence…Toni Morrison is the eye that never blinks in the face of such harsh subjects.”
These are the quotes that stopped me short. “They did not talk, groan or curse during these beatings. There was only the muted sound of falling things, and flesh on unsurprised flesh” (p 43). It’s the word ‘unsurprised’ that speaks volumes.
“He urges his eyes out of his thoughts to encounter her” (p 49). Another way of describing a deep-seeded prejudice.
One aspect of this novel that caught me up was the narrator hearing certain words in colors like light green, black and red. I have done the same thing with my imagination. I see words as certain shades or hues. Aside from the colors, this was a hard book to read and I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 29).
The LibraryThing review:
The premise of Carter Clay is a guilty conscience. Instantly, I was brought back to Charles Dickens because same could have said for Great Expectations. In Great Expectations, Pip becomes a gentleman through the generosity of a convict Pip was forced to help earlier in his life. When he first finds out, he is disappointed his benefactor isn’t someone more appropriate to society’s standards. In Carter Clay there is a similar parallel. Carter Clay is a homeless drunk who accidentally plows his van into a family, killing the father and seriously wounding the mother and daughter. His guilt and sense of debt drive him to be close to his victims, to care for them as penance. Additional factors, such as the man who wants to kill him, complicate the plot.
While I was impressed by the way Evans tells the story, weaving past and present through the different voices, I didn’t find her writing quotable. Nothing grabbed me in that way. Character development was my favorite. From flashbacks you got a sense of how everyone used to be before the accident. But, those flashbacks are subjective to human emotion and the desire to remember things a certain way which may or may not reflect reality. I found the psychology of what has or hasn’t changed for each character very interesting.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapters “Florida Fiction” (p 90) because most of the plot (and accident) happens in Florida, and “Teenage Times” (p 217) because Jersey, the daughter paralyzed in the accident, is a central character.