fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books.
“I’m starting to think that some people are just born to sink. Born to fail. And I’m beginning to realize that I’m one of those people, and you have no idea what that’s like. How truly awful it is to know that about yourself.”
jesus, this was good.
it’s a compact and affecting book about gentrification’s effect on portland’s working poor and one woman’s attempt to hold on to what little she has.
and it TEEMS.
it’s very small in scope, a coupla days—maybe 24-36 hours, but so much happens. part of the reason it feels so packed is that lynette’s life; her daily schedule, is exhausting: going to school in between her morning shift at a bakery and her evening shift bartending, taking care of her special needs brother, occasionally turning tricks at night, all to save enough money so she can go in with her mother to buy the rundown house they have been renting for years, working herself to the bone just to be able to live where she’s always lived, as people all around them are being priced out of their neighborhoods in a city she barely recognizes anymore.
it’s a modest dream, but to her it represents stability, which she has had precious little of in her thirty years.
but other people get to have dreams, too, and her mother suddenly wants to carve out a different future for herself, one that doesn’t involve living in a house with so many bad memories, and one that doesn’t involve living with lynette anymore. she announces that she’s made other arrangements and the rest of the book is a real-time scramble as lynette tries to wrangle enough money to buy the house on her own.
it’s a tautly coiled plot, and there’s something almost noir about it as lynette spends the night-into-early-morning driven by her mounting desperation into a series of increasingly dangerous situations as she calls in her chits and faces the demons of her past, burning bridges all the way down.
the story is tight cutting perfection, and it keeps the reader very close; i felt lynette’s exhaustion and frustration deep in my bones, and the smallness of her asks—that debts be repaid, that promises be kept, that hard work and sacrifice count for something—was heartbreakingly real.
a lot of it, particularly the scenes between lynette and her mother, reads like a play, their dialogue unfurling in long alternating speeches dredging up all the old grievances of the past; fraught and emotional but also expositionally resonant. this would be a powerhouse drama if anyone ever took it upon themselves to stage this.
short, but substantial, and i’m a dummy for waiting so long to read him.