4 out of 5 stars
I love Nina LaCour's books. The Disenchantments is one of my favorite books period and I just really love her writing style in general. I picked it up on impulse at Barnes & Noble one day (I hardly ever buy books there anymore, so this was pretty special) because the cover caught my eye and then the author. The actual book is really beautiful. The artwork grabs you in and it has a slight texture to it that makes it feel expensive. Even the inside cover is pretty. This is a book meant to be displayed on your shelf.
All that said, I had a really hard time rating this one. I really loved the words and how she used them but I also needed more to the actual story, so it was kind of difficult to decipher how I really felt about it. Maybe writing this review will help!
Marin is the only person left in her college dorm over Christmas break and she's kind of fine with that. She's been running and hiding from her past for months and it's a relief to not have to pretend everything is okay. We don't get a clear idea of what she's running from, not right away. And honestly, I don't think we ever get the full scope of what's happened. That's part of why I had issues with it. Marin was raised by her grandfather, who is this amazing character on his own. He dies shortly after the book starts but even to the end, we don't really know what happens. The story goes back and forth from the present, in snowy New York, to about six months prior, in sunny California.
"I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of the right throbs and the wrong." (from The Turn of the Screw, which I am now interested in reading!)
Marin's mother was a surfer, who died in the ocean when Marin was 3. She doesn't remember anything about her, Gramps won't talk about her or show her pictures, but random strangers will stop Marin on the beach to tell her stories and give her seashells. It's almost like her mother's ghost is following her around. Ghosts are a prevalent theme throughout. But she has her best friend Mabel to keep her sane. Until she can't anymore and Marin flees to the other side of the country. Mabel comes to visit her on break and tries to convince her to come home to Cali, but Marin won't/can't. She can barely handle being with Mabel for 3 days.
"Not enough hope. Everything is despair. Everything is suffering. What I mean is don't be a person who seeks out grief. There is enough of that in life."
I just realized, just this minute, why I do love this book so much. It reminds me of Jandy Nelson's books, especially I'll Give You The Sun. There's unmistakable sadness in both but also beauty, in words and thoughts. They also both explore artwork and make you think and want to do something. The girls discuss Frida Kahlo's painting The Two Fridas (which I was lucky enough to see recently at the Dallas Museum of Art) and it's beautiful.
"...the whole one is trying to pull the wounded one back to her, as if she could undo what's happened. Or the wounded one is guiding her old self into her new life. Or it could be that they've separated almost entirely from each other, and they are holding hands as a last moment of connection before they break apart completely."
So yes, I've decided it deserves the 4 stars I initially gave it. This is a quiet book, you don't think much is happening, but it still moves you, makes you feel. And when you finish it, you'll continue to think about it for days. That's what makes a book good right? If you're still thinking about it, even negatively, it's doing its job.
I was okay just a moment ago. I will learn how to be okay again.