Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review:Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a girl with Scissors by Benjamin X Wretlind

Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a girl with Scissors by Benjamin X Wretlind.

I received this book through Amazon- free after having read a rant by the author. I enjoyed his words so well that even though this is out of my usual genre I decided to give it a try.

I admit to being somewhat squeamish sometimes- more so with movies than books. Often enough I've seen movies that have made me shut them off part way through wondering why I endured it that long. This book made me squeamish that way sometimes, but I had decided that I wanted to see it through. As a horror novel it's quite balanced and sustains just the right element throughout to make it top notch.

A problem though, with part of the squeamishness, is that I kept seeing this less as a horror and more as literary fiction. It reminded me of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest mixed with Richard Farina's Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me.

Maggie tells us her story in a simple almost innocent honest fashion. Not apologetic or deflective, but earnest description of the things that have happened and are happening in her life.

This is realistic story of abuse from her mother's boyfriends and even her own mother sometimes. Both physical and mental in the way that more often than not reduces the abused person to a point where they have no self worth. The result is that Maggie is distanced from most other children her age and is more often than not picked on by them. She takes it all in stride; possibly because of her experience at home she might view it as natural. It is easy to empathize with this child as she attempts to grow up. Her only port in the storm is her grandmother.

Maggie's grandmother is the person who has raised Maggie and she protects her when she can from both the myriad of boyfriends who are in and out; and her mother's wrath. It's ironic that grandma might figure more than anyone in Maggie's descent into madness. Maggie is afraid of storms- particularly the dust storms that seem to plague them and they often leave her with a mess of sand and broken glass that she's expected to clean. Grandma tries to help Maggie with this fear, often through telling a sort of tale of castles in the sky.

I somehow read between the lines that there is some sort of indictment here against telling children certain fairy tales and fanciful stories. In particular in this instance because there seems to be a thread running though the generations of this family that involves abusive relationships and often what take the form of anti-male sentiment. Always the abuse from the men seem to overshadow those of Maggie's mother. The notion that the bricks used to build the castle in the sky are used by girls to make castles for girls.

There is another realistic thread in this novel that has to do with Maggie's apparent descent into madness. This is played out well, as the reader comes to understand that Maggie has no real grasp on how far she might be slipping. When Maggie's only defender, her grandmother, dies; Maggie must take care of herself. And when grandma's ghost visits her constantly along with the discovery of strange sand eels, it become increasingly difficult to tell if this is a descent into madness or if it's a page out of something akin to a Stephen King horror and suspense.

I'll admit that there's a point half way through this that my sympathy for Maggie sort of dies. In a twisted way though it's like watching a loved one you've tried to help, who is in a bad relationship and can't seem to fight their way out. You don't want to give up on them but there's a point where they could drag you down with them if you're not careful. In Maggie's case at the beginning she has less control over her destiny because she's a child.

There are no other characters in the story that I felt sympathy for. They get their just deserts. This is not their story. It's a study in abuse and how some people handle that abuse and about how rebelling against that abuse can easily take someone down the wrong road for all the right reasons.

This book is well written literature and though I'm not sure how soon I want to venture into any more of Benjamin X Wretlind's worlds, I recommend this read as; Something great for a good thought provoking jarring of our regular everyday complacency.


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