Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Under the Mercy Trees
And when you first start reading it... it's slow. It really is a slow read. But when I finished it, I was glad I did because all of these characters pull at you. Not just Martin and Liza (the girl who loved him), but all of the Owenby family. They are all screwed up in their own right but each one has a story. This is one of the rare books that completes the story of all of the character. Oftentimes when you have a book that each chapter focuses on a different character's point of view, somebody's story gets lost in the shuffle and it doesn't quite finish how it should. This one pulls it off beautifully.
What I loved about it is that it's really relevant to today even though the story is back a few years and it all starts in the late 50's/early 60's. Think of where our country was on topics such as adultery, homosexuality, and family duty. It's a completely different scenario today... but not really. Martin's story as a young boy discovering he isn't like other boys and although he loves Liza... it's not the same way that she loves him. She plans a future with him and he feels terrible, but he knows he would be breaking her heart no matter what. So his life goes into a tailspin. Which makes me think of all of the kids who are killing themselves by being taunted based on their sexuality, they could be Martin. Martin could be them. You root for Martin through the whole book because you know he has the potential- he just has to be shown that it's ok to be a failure in some rights. It's not the end of the world and life will move on.
The story also touches on mental illness as we perceive it. One of Martin's sisters sees ghosts and she talks to them, sometimes she forgets others can hear her. Everyone of course assumes she's crazy but it's tragic. She suffers tremendous loss in her life with the loss of her children so to speak, and it makes you think of all the people we automatically label as crazy.