Monday, February 20, 2006

Seeking Healing

Over the last two days, I read Kristie Helms's 2003 novel Dish It Up, Baby! She'd mailed it to me after an email exchange awhile ago, I'm guessing because I'd been active in Kevin Smokler's Virtual Book Tour project. I'd started it upon receiving it -- getting 30 pages in -- but for whatever reason didn't finish it until now. Sorry, Kristie!

The book is brilliant. Brilliant.

And it's worth reading for several reasons. If you've ever come to love New York City -- but didn't at first -- check it out. If you've ever loved Boston -- and moved there for love -- check it out. If you've ever needed to heal after an abusive or unhealthy relationship -- check it out. If you've ever grappled with how you manage friendships and relationships -- perhaps (but not necessarily) coming to grips with whether you're straight or gay -- read it. If you've ever worked in a job longer than intended because it was "safe," read it. If you've ever loved a city -- any city -- because of its details and random exchanges and experiences, read it. If you've ever needed to reconcile who you've discovered yourself to be with who you thought you were, read it. And if you've ever wanted to write a book about everything you've gone through -- but not really -- read it.

In fact, that's one of the most intriguing and fascinating aspects. Given the assumption that the book is somewhat autobiographical -- Helms did win a diary-blogging award, and she does live in Boston -- it's hard to think that the book could be written without experiencing some of the major happenings detailed: Being raised by an alcoholic father, escaping an abusive marriage, coming out. Even the novel's selected imprint, Firebrand Books, specializes in feminist, lesbian, and transgender titles. This isn't stuff that can easily be faked, people.

Another thing that impressed me was the narration's personal passion, pacing, and practice. Helms's short, staccato use of phrase, often dissecting sentences into series of shorter, interrupted phrases, imbued the book with an almost breathless desperation. Despite the book's overly repetitive return to the themes of how challenging, emotional, and angry the happenings were, the sense of self-discovery and -development never faltered.

It's a solid novel, and worth reading even if you don't tend to read Firebrand-like titles. (I'm curious if this book would have hit my radar had the author not posted it to me.) The book is useful on several fronts. If you need help learning who you are, read it. If you need help learning why you are how you are, read it. If you love New York or Boston, read it. If you are interested in learning how to re-emerge into the dating scene -- and a healthy relationship -- after being in a long-term, unhealthy relationship -- married or otherwise -- read it. If you need help balancing life and work, read it.

Long story short: Read it.

If you want a book considered for review, let me know. I can't promise an immediate review, much less a favorable review, but I'm looking for texts to consider. Hit me up.

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