Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Thoughts on 'Small Damages' by Beth Kephart
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of Beth Kephart's Small Damages, one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. I read the book in one sitting, at a time when a lot of emotions had started to crash and flood and crowd. All I wanted to do was get lost in a book, and I fell easily, landed deep in the world of this novel, got tangled up in love with characters I want to keep in a jar for always. Or maybe they are characters I wish would keep me. It feels that way, sometimes, with the right kind of story. And this, for me, is that kind of story.
Kenzie is eighteen years old and pregnant, sent away to live in a cortijo in Spain where arrangements have been made for her to give up her child for adoption. Still mourning the death of her own father, Kenzie is left with memories of all she left behind: her boyfriend (the father of her child), a group of friends that remain carefree and unaware of her situation, and her mother, who grieves by forgetting, by quickly letting go, desperately trying to erase what can't or shouldn't be erased. But, in Spain, Kenzie must live with people who do not forget, who linger, and hold on tightly to past loves and regrets. And, in my mind, this is where Kenzie is caught. Between what should have been and what is, between forgetting and holding on.
There is a moment in the book that stopped me, literally, took my breath away. Kenzie walks away from the ranch and is later found and asked why she has left.
"I needed to get away," I say, knowing how stupid it sounds, how messy I must seem. "From me, I mean. Away from me."
To me, that kind of moment is an everything moment. I think a lot of people would say that it takes courage to embrace who you are. But, I believe, it takes even more courage to walk away from who you are in order to find out who you can be. To capture that in these few words means they are everything words. To explore this theme in a book means Small Damages is an everything book.
I feel lucky to know Beth Kephart and to learn from her. She is not just an amazing writer but an amazing person and that means more to me. But when I finished Small Damages (due out July 19th), I thought, this is the kind of book I want to read, always. This is the kind of book I want to write.