Madena, New York. A small town like any small town: everybody keeps an eye on everybody else's business, nobody recognizes the secrets that connect them.
Teenage Persephone trades sex for the tattoo sessions that get her high enough to forget that her girlfriend doesn't love her and she isn't sure she loves her dad. Theo used to be the high-school bad boy who could never have the respectable girl he adored from afar now he owns the last video store in town and worries wretchedly about the daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying so hard to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray the baby's father. And wheelchair-bound Celeste who has never had a life, desperate to connect, watches and makes up stories and finally understands that things have gone terribly wrong and she stands at the heart of disaster.
Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of ties that bind and those that cannot hold.
What a perfect book if you're really in the mood for a short story. It's not a short story per say, but it comes in at 195 pages so I flew through this in the evening while Matt watched his dreaded Star Trek on Netflix.
Admittedly, this book is kind of... strange. It's narrated by Celeste, who is wheel chair bound but hasn't always been that way. It's been a gradual deterioration of the leg function, and her aide says she really needs to get out more. Celeste isn't inclined to do that since she has an entire world she watches through the vent in her kitchen. She sees Persephone, who is adopted by Theo, and she never knew her birth mother. She's pretty sure she's a lesbian, but she has sex with a man in exchange for tattoos all over her body, which is a really bizarre form of self mutilation for her (kind of). Little does Persephone know, her mother is closer to home than she realizes, and Theo made a promise to mom Natalie to never reveal her identity. Which is just really sad that after all this time, Theo still lets that woman walk all over him with nothing in return but yet- here we are.
What's really strange about this book is that it isn't one that I would have picked up and devoured based on the cover, but yet... the story is kind of bizarrely addicting. It's like how we spy on our neighbors to see what's going on. We might not know but based on what we see we form an opinion and go with it. Celeste sees herself like Persephone but they go about their journey to feel anything in totally opposite ways. I finished this book in just a couple of hours because I want to know what happens to Celeste and Persephone. Even from early on in the book you feel like we're working up to something big, like a train wreck that you know you're coming up on and you can take a detour but you find yourself driving towards it anyways. I have to say, this would be an EXCELLENT pick for a book club. There is so much meat to this story, so many what if's and discussion points, that despite it being a shorter book you could really discuss this for awhile.
You can find your own copy of Connected Underneath on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. Linda Letgers also has a website you can peruse, too. I'm really interested to see what she does for her next book because this one was written really well and you felt like you were sitting right there with Celeste at her table, listening to her recount the neighborhood gossip. Those are the books I adore, the ones I forget I'm only reading and not listening to in real time.