Sunday, September 18, 2005

Identification

Just finished "Cat's Eye" by Margaret Atwood.
Funny how a book will draw me, I'll buy it and put it on the shelf for months or even years before the right time comes.
I bought this copy at a gigantic used book site in Maine - a former chicken barn, with antiques on the first floor and books on the second. So large that a map was provided - Judaica this way, juvenile fiction that way.
That was 10 years ago, following a divorce. I took my parents back to Maine, where they took me when I was a child. We went back to Greenville and Moosehead Lake, the edge of the bush. It was early June and I swam in the black waters of Lily Bay, with pine pollen on the surface, the water cold as the recent ice-out promised.
And this book....
I'm a fan of Atwood and of Alice Munro and other Canadians. Growing up close to the border, I guess, in the deep snows of western New York, with the same oppressive skies and cold. Joyce Carol Oates grew up not that far away, in Lockport.
So this book had much that was new and much chillingly familiar. Without spoiling the intricate memoir-style plot, I'll say that it recalled the northern trips, and it recalled the terrors of growing up a girl when you don't understand how to do that.
Unlike Atwood's narrator, I had no brother, but I did grow up free and wild in the northern woods. It was easier to understand botany and the ways of boys, my father and my cousins, a world of fishing and football and dares. Girls have a different, more subtle, more horrifying cruelty that I learned in school.
We survived. That's the point. I had lunch with a female friend the other day and she brought up this same book. Loved it, too. "A Lord of the Flies for girls," she said.
Indeed.

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