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This bittersweet story of loss and revelation reveals the powerful and complex bond between fathers and daughters.
When my mom decides to run away from home she packs up her car with all the things that matter most to her.
Her guitar and some books all her CDs her clothes her shoes
Grandma’s music box from the fireplace mantle and the quilt from the bed she shares with Dad.
She jams plastic grocery bags filled with soap and shampoo into the small spaces left in between things and ties a couple of suitcases to the roof.
At the last minute she throws in a few dishes some towels and a potted red geranium that guards the front porch.
Dad tells her not to pack stuff too high so she can still see out the back window but she ignores him and shoves her pillow between her guitar case and the portable TV.
By the time she’s done there’s no room left for anything else.
No room left for Dad.
And no room left for me.
The Wrong Answers
When I ask her why she’s leaving she finds lots of ways to not answer me.
She yanks photos from the albums and dumps out her purse on the kitchen table then puts everything back in it again.
She unloads the dishwasher just like any other day.
“Why do you have to go?”
Because I can’t stay.
She paces arms swinging wildly trapped like a bee in a jar.
I don’t belong here anymore.
“If you’re not supposed to be here where are you supposed to be?”
I don’t know, Rachel.
I just don’t know.
“Why can’t I go with you?”
You just can’t.
Later yes later maybe after I get settled but now now you need to stay here you have to stay with your dad it will all be fine even better than fine, I bet.
I don’t mean to,
but I snort and she slams her hand down on the kitchen table.
I can’t do this anymore, Rachel!
I wonder if she took her pills this morning then I glance at the bottle near the coffee pot and she catches me looking.
Yes, she says.
But sometimes they don’t work.
And then she starts to cry.
Posted September 25, 2006
I recently had the privilege, nay, the honor, of reading Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it is a novel in verse. Free verse, that is. Each poem is a scene. Sometimes it describes the actions of the characters, but always it conveys the emotional truth of the MC/narrator, Rachel, even when what Rachel says isn't true. The first scene/poem in the book sets up the major issue for our character, when Rachel's mother leaves. We learn a lot more about Rachel's mother and her particular issues as the book goes on. We learn more about Rachel's father, too, and of course we learn about Rachel. There are magnificent mega-issues here, too, like what is family? and how can we forgive those who hurt us? and that we can live through awful grief and not only survive, but thrive. The individual poems are magnificent. In the first stanza of the book, we read: 'When my mom decides to run away from home/she packs up her car/with all the things that matter most/to her.' The genius of this stanza is the surprising force and punch of those last two words. And as a reader, you already know that the MC is not getting invited into that car. And you automatically wonder, 'what kind of mother can willingly leave her child?' And you side with Rachel, because there is no sympathy for this sort of mother. Not yet. Not until later, and even then, anger usually outweighs the modicum of sympathy there. A second stanza much, much later in the book (p. 132, to be exact, but please don't skip to this poem/chapter if you haven't read the book yet) does the same thing. It begins 'The hurt/settles in my heart/like one of those giant rocks you tie to something/when you want it to sink . . .' And the use of the rock imagery here not as a source of stability but as a tool of destruction brings new levels of meaning to the book. Images of embracing the truth, perhaps, or of acceptance. Much later, in the midst of a chapter/poem entitled The Worst Thing, Rachel and her dad are in a car, discussing some very serious matters, like the whys and wherefores of her mother's behavior. Rachel is nonverbal here, and shrugs. Dad presses on, and Rachel writes 'I shrug louder.' Talk about your imagery. It's genius. Finally, the shortest poem in the book is the chapter/poem entitled Mother's Day, and I can tell you this for true: it very nearly killed me, in a readerly way. Because in its brevity, it spoke volumes. And those volumes were eloquent and poignant and true. But you must start at the start and read all the way to there, or you will not understand what it is that I am telling you. Do yourself a favor: If it is already in your reading pile, move it to the top. If you do not have it, buy it. Expect to see it discussed in important book circles later this year, because it is a beautiful story beautifully told. In closing, Hugging the Rock will not take you long to read, but it may take you forever to forget.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2006
Rachel¿s mother runs away from home and she is left behind with her father, an emotionally-distant man she barely knows. The reader is thrown into the middle of Rachel¿s journey as she looks for answers and acceptance. Susan Taylor Brown tells a moving story in Hugging the Rock. She dares to bring painful emotions to the surface, connecting with her readers through shared feelings and experiences. A powerful novel with the potential to spark heart-to-heart conversations among families and friends.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.