Monday, November 26, 2012
G13 Book Review of Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Author: Aria Beth Sloss
Publisher: Henry Holt
Type of book: friendship, 1950s-1990s, betrayal, crushed dreams, feminism, hopes, California, New York, marriage, adoption, secrets, unspoken issues
Year it was published: 2013
A gripping debut novel about friendship, loss and love; a confession of what passed between two women who met as girls in 1960s Pasadena, California
Coming of age in the patrician neighborhood of Pasadena, California during the 1960s, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers' narrow expectations. Their struggle to define themselves against the backdrop of an American cultural revolution unites them early on, until one sweltering evening the summer before their last year of college, when a single act of betrayal changes everything. Decades later, Rebecca’s haunting meditation on the past reveals the truth about that night, the years that followed, and the friendship that shaped her.
Autobiography of Us is an achingly beautiful portrait of a decades-long bond. A rare and powerful glimpse into the lives of two women caught between repression and revolution, it casts new light on the sacrifices, struggles, victories and defeats of a generation.
I liked the character of Alex as well as Rebeca. Rebeca is best described as an ordinary girl who desired to be a doctor, but instead her dreams got shot and she ended up being ordinary, just like Alex. In a way I felt pity towards the girls, as well as Rebeca's mother. The male characters, besides the father, aren't prominent and little is shown and known about them. I couldn't connect to the male characters. The females are complex and well rounded as well as very emotional. This isn't simply a love story, which isn't prominent but is more of a tale of friendship and broken dreams.
It's important that women get education and have more outlets beyond the stereotypical ones, else everyone else suffers.
I found the beginning few chapters disconnected, and it wasn't until halfway, at least until the senior year that the things have started to make sense. The story is very 1960s, including the aura and characters are genuine who only did what they were taught to do. In terms of rights and other issues of 1960s and 1970s, they are mentioned in passing and the book doesn't really dwell on them a great deal. Instead the focus is on friendship and relationships between families and the daughters as well as the lifestyles that they were raised with. In truth I loved reading the book and consider myself one of the lucky ten to have won it.
Aria Beth Sloss is a graduate of Yale University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Arts Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, and the Vermont Studio Center, and her writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Harvard Review, and online at The Paris Review and FiveChapters. She lives in New York City.
I'm surprised that I loved this book. I thought I might like it, but then I thought it would be dull or boring. Yet it was neither, and somehow it stuck with me: this is a reminder of what happens when women are deprived of choices and opportunities to make something of themselves, or what happens when dreams are crushed. In the end, they suffered along with husbands and families. I enjoyed the dialogue style and felt it realistic, as well as various 1960s makeup references and the whole secrecy around certain issues such as rape, abortion, abuse and "keeping up with Joneses" lifestyle that everyone subscribes to. Strangely enough, the book reminded me of Forever Sisters by Judy Blume and has this area of tragedy from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, especially of Daisy and the baby. I would highly recommend the novel to women to read, to remember the past that their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers have lived in.
Quick notes: I won this book on goodreads.com thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)