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Wednesday Reading Roundup

What I've Just Finished Reading

Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio, first book in the Water Damage Club. It was all right! I wouldn't have read all the way through if left to my own devices, not because it was terrible, but because I've developed the bad habit of closing a book immediately if it doesn't grab me, and because it has a specific element (weight and eating disorder talk) that I usually avoid. Icy is the name of the narrator, a young girl growing up with undiagnosed Tourette syndrome in rural Kentucky.

My legacy was come to rightly. The good Lord charters a path for each child, and no use comes from fighting against it. My mama died from kidney poison two weeks after she birthed me. From those little green crab apples, she created Icy, the frog child from Icy Creek, and an indigestion so troubled that it gnawed away her system and turned her water as yellow as my eyes. Matanni told me that before she died her urine was the color of acorn squash. "Child, them eyes of yours is her gift to you," Matanni said. "Your mama saw the golden light and send it back to you. The minute your sweet mama passed into heaven, your eyes turned yellow."


Icy begins to develop disruptive tics in the fourth grade, including the uncommon-in-RL-but-ubiquitous-in-media "uncontrolled cursing." I have to say I was a little disappointed to see that one crop up again, though I am by no means qualified to act as The Fictional Tourette Syndrome Police. She encounters mean kids and keeping-their-heads-down kids, neighbors with dark secrets, some sadistic adults and some adults who are well-meaning but imperfect. The dialogue often reads a little too twee and colorful for me, but you could justify that on the grounds that this is framed as a memory of childhood, and therefore exaggerated and oversaturated. The confusedly lyrical child-perspective is frequently good, but the present-day narrator is so underdeveloped that when she turns up at the end to assure us that everything turned out for the best, it feels intrusive and inorganic.

The Pentecostal revival scene isn't perfectly written, but I did find it genuinely unsettling. I'm not sure what to make of Icy's more-or-less stock sojourn at a state psychiatric hospital, or whether I like the Italicized Lyrical Interstitials that break up the narrative from time to time with family and personal legend -- though I like family legend stuff in general. I definitely wasn't sold on the last one, an epilogue with underfed roots. Overall, I was glad that I read it, but it didn't take anything from me or leave anything behind.

What I'm Reading Now

Tayari Jones' The Untelling. I like it a lot so far. It's memoir-esque fiction with a weighty, vivid sense of place and time, sharp and unforced first-person narration, and lots of basically good people having one quietly revealing conversation after another. It didn't grab me as hard or as quickly as Silver Sparrow, but it's been creeping up on me for many pages, and the last chapter I read pushed me from "probably will love this eventually" to "completely invested." Hopefully I'll have a little more to say when I'm finished. I am pretty sure there are more devastating revelations waiting for me in the next 200 pages. Crossing my fingers that they won't be too bad. I really want this book to end on an optimistic note, for the very selfish and unliterary reason that I like these characters and want them to be happy.

What I Plan to Read Next

I read Icy Sparks first because it was the shortest book in the Water Damage Club, so I'm going to read the longest next -- A Distant Trumpet by Paul Horgan. It's apparently a Civil War Novel written in the 1960s, which fills me with apprehension -- but really I don't know what to expect, so I will go on expecting nothing in particular until I begin. Plus a bunch of mysteries and whatnot, same old same.

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