Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review: A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

Goodreads  review, last updated June 14, 2011

How can I describe "A Swift Pure Cry"? Certainly not in terms that are often applied to books.

Ephemere.

Fragile.

Elegant.

Claustrophobic.

Beautiful.

This is the story of Shell, short for Michelle, a 16-year old girl who, in 1984, deals with the aftermath of her mother's death and the consequences of her father's drinking/religious awakening. She finds comfort in the friendship of a young pastor, Father Rose, not realizing that their interactions spike a scandal which rocks the community.

Reading the synopsis, I thought of lifetime movies and melodrama and angst (which shows just how much I know). It sets a backdrop for the reader - a devastated, poor family in an even more devastated, poor time, a dead mother, a drunk father, an eldest daughter who has to step up to the role of a caregiver and housekeeper much too soon. 

What I didn't expect was how personal the narrative felt. Shell's life is confined to the routine, from which she rarely finds reprieve. It's claustrophobic, stiffling, and very, very scary, seeing her fear, frustration, desperation, and feeling them for yourself. It's also full of vibrancy and color and hope, and that's why it's so wonderful when the ending reflects the positive, and not the negative.

Note: Image via Goodreads.

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