Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: The People Who Watched Her Pass By

Read 10/9/10 - 10/11/10
4 Stars: Strongly Recommended

God, I love indie publishers. They put out some of the most interesting books I have ever read.

The People Who Watched Her Pass By is author Scott Bradfield's fifth novel, though it is the first book I have read by him.

And it's a horrifying concept - a 3 year old girl kidnapped from her home by the hot water heater fixer. Not only does this guy kidnap her, he deserts her too. And it's the story of this 3 year old girl wandering from house to house, being taken in, and then being let go, over and over and over again. Until she takes matters into her own hands and chooses when she will be taken in, and when she will walk away.... Until the world finally catches up to her.

So, although it's every mother's worst nightmare - to have her child stolen from her, and not being able to find her, or know what has happened to her - and not a very easy novel to digest, it has some of the most amazing and quotable lines I have read in a very long time.

Bradfield twists and manipulates the english language so beautifully that you actually forgive him for writing a book about such a terrible and unspeakable crime. He takes the life of 3 year old Salome and turns it into poetry.

Seriously. Read this line:

"Life is a sweet mistake that happened when the world wasn't looking."

I love this line so much that I almost want to take it to a tattoo parlor and have it etched into my skin so I can keep it with me forever.

And this one, that describes a major turning point of sorts between Salome's previous life (of living in a laundromat) and her next life:

"We can only have one home at a time. But if we are not ready to appreciate it, or we forget the keys, then we can't have any home at all."

One more, I promise:

"When we die... All the things we ever loved become furniture. The hollowness we feel turns into a house. There aren't any other people in it, and that's one of it's blessings. It's just filled with the ghosts of objects we used to own, things we used to feel, memories of patience and heat... In the afterlife, everything is already over. We don't have anything to regret or anything to look forward to."

The entire novel is peppered with these gorgeous moments that simultaneously grab you by your heart and break it in two.

It is this strange, surreal account of a little girl who wanders almost aimlessly through backyards, and down dirt roads, into and out of peoples lives, people who for some reason don't call Child Services, who don't question this little blonde haired angel they have suddenly crossed paths with, who seem hell-bent on bestowing words of wisdom and advice on her, on telling her their sad soul-crushing stories, on giving her a temporary place to stay...

It is not a book for everyone. It will stir some strong emotions. It will piss some people off. It is a book to be experienced, at the very least.

It is the type of book that only an indie publisher would take a risk on, and bravo, Two Dollar Radio... for the opportunity to review it!


  1. You sold me, Lori. Sounds very, very real life. I need something to recommend to my bookclub, is this available in most libraries, or will we need to purchase it?

  2. You know, Gladys, I am not sure if all libraries would carry this one. It is carried by the indie publisher Two Dollar Radio. I would suggest checking the libraries websites to be sure... but it most certainly will create discussion amongst a group! I am glad my review peaked your interest!