Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: First, You Swallow the Moon

Read 8/5/16 - 8/10/16
4 Stars: Strongly Recommended to heartbreakers and those who have had their hearts broken.
Pages: 219
Publisher: Radialgrain
Released: March 2016

I don't know about you, but I hate... HATE... reading books that are going to jerk my emotions around and get me all worked up over shit I thought I had buried and put behind me. There is little worse than trying to lose yourself in a book that is determined to work its paper thin words inside the tender scars of your own past heartbreaks. I read to escape, not to stew in a pot of my own snively self pity licking old wounds, you know?

Thank GOD this is not one of those books. Though, honestly, I had feared it would be, which is why I was so gosh-darn hesitant to pick it up back when Kipp Wessel first sent it my way back in February.

Don't get me wrong, there's heartbreak here, lots and lots of it, and that same depressing struggle of moving forward because time keeps trucking along even if you don't want to, and the more time that passes the more you find yourself holding on to the pain of being left by someone you love because you just can't bear to let it go, because without the pain there might be forgetting and you refuse to forget and so you just keep fucking holding on to that pain. And then you panic a little because time is just such a fucking bitch and it's dragging you farther and farther away from the moments that were good and happy and warm, the moments you wish you could cocoon yourself inside of, and you think about how one someone can't make any more memories and it kills you to know they are gone and you are not, and you think about how the other someone is making memories without you and that kills you too, and there is such a tremendous pressure on your heart when you think of those things and you are terrified it will break into a thousand pieces right there in your chest and so you start training your heart to slow down, to beat slower, to beat like a hibernating bear's, and when it learns to hibernate you find the numbing floatyness of it addicting. You become obsessed. You jump from the brink of depression into the arms of obsession. You obsess over training your whole self to hibernate. To shield yourself from the pain and to cocoon yourself in the memories and to hide from the right now. Because acknowledging the right now is to acknowledge that things have happened, are happening, will continue to happen, around you, with or without you, and moving on into the right now is simply not an option.

(deep breath.)

Ok, so that was less me and more Jack, the poor heartbroken dude who takes the unexpected death of his older brother really badly. So badly, that he slips into a state of semi-depression and teaches his heart to hibernate like a bear's. While smooshing around in his half bear funk, he decides to move to Montana to actually study bears because he's digging the whole hibernation thing and secretly wants to try to train his whole body to do it. He breaks the news to his girlfriend Clare and she takes it pretty well, transferring schools to go live out there with him and giving him time to "find himself" as he figures out how to cope with his grief. But Jack, man.... the dude is just so darn mopey and selfish and eventually Clare gets sick of it and says she needs a break. She's been so busy taking care of Jack that she now needs time to find herself. And you're thinking, no, no, nononono, Jack you gotta pull up man, she's leaving you, and you're like Clare, wait, wait, waitwaitwait, Jack is not gonna handle this well, just wait a minute before you go blowing his whole world to shit, but it's a book, and they can't hear you and you're like fuuuuuuuuckkk.

First, You Swallow the Moon is a crafty little debut. It's all heartbreak and obsession and not being able to see what's right in front of your own face because you're busy hanging on to the past and it's mopey and indulgent but in the absolutely sweetest sort of way.

It reads like art. It feels like home. It took me places I didn't expect it to. And you should let it take you there too.

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