“This town’s full of sorrows, isn’t it?”
it sure is. this return to cataract city is nothing but heartpunches, one after another. it’s only about 250 pages, so it won’t take you long to read, but it will stick to you for longer than many thicker books, if you’ve ever been a human with human-feelings. it is lovely and sad and perfect, full of the growing pains of smalltown coming-of-age, where danger isn’t always easy to identify, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and with the 20/20 hindsight of nostalgic adulthood, the paths to this understanding, the moments of innocence lost, stand out.
As a boy, when I’d looked at the houses down my block, and all over Cataract City, I’d believed that the lives unfurling behind those doors were much the same as my own. Every boy and girl had good parents like my parents. Every child went to bed with a full belly, in a warm bed, knowing they were loved. That was the life every child was supposed to have, wasn’t it?
the city itself is my favorite kind of tumbledown neglect, which davidson describes so beautifully:
Nothing ever gets torn down in Cataract City. Buildings collapse like woolly mammoths sucked lamenting into a tar pit, and afterwards, the spot where that dilapidated house or shop stood remains barren. In most towns, things change. Vacant lots become parking lots, or gentrification hits and they become tapas restaurants and dog grooming salons. But where I come from those weedy lots become part of the scenery. People would miss them if they were gone.
it’s all just so AAAARRGGHHHH! about memory, family, regret, and uncovering the darker side of childish fancies, kind of like when you learn that playful “ring around the rosy” rhyme is really about people dying from plague and you gotta take a second to process this new information into your childhood, and it rattles around uncomfortably for a while in your psyche before you can move on.
this book is too short to say too much about, but you’d be a fool not to read it. i will leave you with one more quote before i fall onto the floor, gutted.
As you get older, the texture of your fear changes. You’re no longer afraid of the things you had absolute faith in as a child: that you’d die in convulsions from inhaling the gas from a shattered light bulb, that chewing apple pips brought on death by cyanide poisoning, or that a circus dwarf had actually bounced off a trampoline into the mouth of a hungry hippo*. You stop believing in the things my uncle believed in. Even if your mind wants to go there, it has lost the nimbleness needed to make the leap. That magic gets kicked out of you, churched out, shamed out – or worse, you steal it from yourself. It gets embarrassed out of you by the kids who run the same stretch of streets and grown-ups who say it’s time to put away childish things. By degrees, you kill your own magic. Before long your fears become adult ones: crushing debts and responsibilities, sick parents and sick kids, the possibility of dying unremembered or unloved. Fears of not being the person you were so certain you’d grow up to be.
*this will make more sense after you read the book. because you’re going to read the book.
when m. davidson offered me an arc of this book, i immediately accepted because big ♥, but i didn’t realize it was connected to Cataract City, and now i am even MORE excited to dive in! thank you x 1,000!