4 Stars: Strongly Recommended
In an effort to get me reading and reviewing more female authors - a shortcoming of mine that became glaring obvious when I posted a list of Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition - TNBBC BFF Ben Tanzer pointed me towards Ginnetta Correli and her very dark and twisted coming of age novel The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli.
Initially, and I'm being honest here, the cover creeped me the hell out. I was certain this was going to be an extremely unpleasant, warped, mind-fuck of a novel that would find me pissing my pants or cringing under the covers at night - all based solely on the cover of the book prior to ever reading the blurb.
That's the problem with covers, I guess. No matter how badly I try not to judge a book by them, upon seeing it I automatically start mentally constructing it's subject matter. (I do the same thing with book titles too... but that's a story for another day). Now, don't misunderstand me. I am totally open to extremely unpleasant, warped, mind-fuck novels! And in this case, though it wasn't piss-my-pants cringe-under-the-covers scary, it was most definitely warped with a hint of the unpleasant.
In The Lost Episodes, we are introduced to 12 year old Beatie, the unfortunate daughter of a schizophrenic, neglectful mother and violent, child abusing father. Beatie, as both narrator and viewer, looks back on her life as if it were a series of lost television episodes.
Correli's novel removes the blindfolds from our eyes and shows us the sad, stomach-turning events that occur behind the closed doors of more families homes than we care to admit. Beatie, victim to the twisted situation she was born into, unable to control what is happening around her, protects her sanity by creating an 'imaginary friend' named Petey, who takes the shape of one of her stuffed animals. Petey is the voice of reason and hope in her otherwise gloomy and destructive life. He comforts her at night, begs her to be strong, and forgives her when no one else will.
As Beatie's mother finds herself in and out of mental institutions, and her father pushes her away physically and emotionally, Beatie is bounced from house to house, endlessly stuffing her belongings into black trash bags, stealing money in order to purchase clothes and food, and picking fights with the girls at school.
Correli takes the term "broken home" and smashes it into unrecognizable pieces. She holds a magnifying glass up to all of the ugliness we try to ignore. She shows you the irreversible effects poor parenting can have on the behavioral development of a child. She grabs you by the back of the neck and presses your nose against the pages, saying "see.. see... see what we do? See what we allow to happen? It's not the child's fault!"
This novel was self-published by Ginnetta Correli, through her film company Marshmallow Press. The editing issues can be distracting, if you are the type of reader who is easily irked by misplaced or missing quotation marks and commas. But if you can get past them, I recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.
Self-publishing is no easy feat and smart gems like this one can very easily go unnoticed. The Lost episodes of Beatie Scareli is relatively quick read, but one that is certain to leave you with something to chew on.