Thursday, March 13, 2008

And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida

The new Tournament of Books list really shamed me into finally reading Vendela Vida's debut novel (her latest is on the list). I got it as a bargain book at some point a couple of years ago, and though it's a slender novel, I just haven't gotten to it yet. I busted through it yesterday and a little today. It's a quick read for capital-L Literature. The premise really grabbed me: Ellis, a 21-year old college student, is held at gunpoint. She escapes from the experience unharmed, but completely changed. The encounter occurs at the very beginning of the novel, so the story is really about how she responds--in unpredictable, conflicting ways. She does everything a victim is supposed to: she files a police report, collaborates on a sketch of the assailant, looks at mug shots, sees a therapist. But her world has been turned upside down, and she flounders, avoiding her boyfriend's calls, telling outrageous lies to strangers, and turning to a few solicitous men for answers. She flies home to see her parents and ends up in the Philippines on a medical mission with her mother (a nurse). This could have been a gloomy, depressing book, but Vida's sense of humor is finely tuned. Ellis's roommate (not a friend, Ellis tells us, just someone from whom she rents a room) leaves little poems accusing Ellis of shirking her chores, and these are hilarious. Rather than dismal, I found it a hopeful book, and a surprisingly light read for such heavy subject matter. Oh, and Ellis is an art history student, Holly, so though it's not a huge part of the book, there are references to art history throughout. I definitely recommend this book and will have to check out her second novel.

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