Review by Ann McDonald
Four young women are thrown together as roommates freshman year in college: Ruth, Francesca, Opal, and Setsu. Each is striving to overcome struggles from childhood and find her true self.
Author Pamela Moses presents her readers with four very distinct women. Ruth, who narrates the story, tells her own first, her childhood, her relationship with her mother in particular who controls every aspect of Ruth’s life, submerging her daughter’s ability and talent beneath her own and comforts the hurt that is endured with food, replacing Ruth’s dreams with her own faded and failed needs. Opal is a lovely, sexy girl who lives vicariously through her flighty mother, a woman of easy virtue. She so desperately wants to be glamorous and wants the attention of her mothers receives, and of course, eventually she gets it and it changes her forever. The wall she builds around herself never comes down.
Francesca is perpetually seeking some attention and recognition from her very glamorous mother but she does not get it and takes solace from food and becomes as self-absorbed as her mother. Setsu is an adopted little girl and is very talented with her violin and is complicated but shy. She receives her first violin at four years of age and her parents then adopt a boy, Toru, who is older that Setsu and he gradually takes over her entire life, her desire to please him for her parents’ sake in the end leads her to give up on her music and her mother allows it. Toru is so jealous of Setsu he even takes her food from her plate. This is the background of the novel.
The four girls end up at Brown University to complete their education and face the world together, forever friends. Each girl tells her own story and it gets very harrowing and depressing as you are drawn into the world they occupy and you meet the good, the bad and the downright ugly. The past and present merge and you want them to shake off the shackles of intense manipulation and watch the failures with sadness and the victories with a smile. It’s a harsh reality you want to avoid because you see yourself in these stories. This is definitely not a lighthearted, summer read, you are going to find yourself in these pages. It’s a book you have to take your time with, a miss nuance and you end up scratching your head and saying “what?”
Late-night reading is not recommended. It’s a well-written and intelligently presented story and you will gain the insights hidden inside the pages, if you read it with due diligence.
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