Hauntingly observant and insightful, this poignant debut novel delves into the intricate bonds between mothers and daughters and offers an unflinching, darkly funny look at the relationships between love, sex, and death.
Rachel Spark is an irreverent, sexually eager, financially unstable thirty-year-old college instructor who moves back home when her mother is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. As she tries to ease her mother, a perpetually cheerful woman, toward the inevitable, Rachel turns from one man to the next -- sometimes comically, sometimes catastrophically -- as if her own survival depended upon it.
"If I slept only with men who knew my full name, if I signed up for dance classes, if I ate more fruit -- even then there was no guarantee I'd get what I wanted," she thinks. And so she goes off with Johnny, who wears "all silk: black silk pants, a red silk shirt, even a silk band holding his hair in a ponytail." Or with Adam, an old boyfriend who remembers her with a bob she never had and tries to seduce her in his car with dark-tinted windows. Regardless of her unsuitable and unlikely bedmates, Rachel can't distract herself from what she knows about cancer -- that it disappears or returns, seemingly with a will of its own. But Rachel's not the only one struggling with the uncertain turns life takes...
Ella Bloom, an adult student in Rachel's poetry class, aspires to more than her work at a local family planning clinic. But she spends her nights wondering why her husband kissed one of her colleagues and whether it will lead to a full-fledged affair, and she is also preoccupied with one of her repeat patients, Georgia, a teenager who frequents the clinic and has a story of her own. What they all have in common is their desire for love, despite its many obstacles.
A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That is a novel rife with wit and compassion. A provocative, assured new voice in literary fiction, Lisa Glatt knows the yardsticks by which we constantly measure our world and ourselves -- devotion, lust, forgiveness, and courage.
"A girl becomes a comma like that, with wrong boy after wrong boy," muses the narrator of Glatt's keenly observed debut. "She becomes a pause, something quick before the real thing." Rachel Spark, a 30-ish university poetry teacher, is looking for the real thing but she's also living in L.A with her mother, "because she was sick and because I was poor.... It was love, yes, but need was part of it too." As her mother slowly succumbs to breast cancer, Rachel seeks solace and escape in the arms of various unsuitable men. Glatt's tone shifts through comic, pensive and mournful as she also explores the lives of Rachel's newlywed student, Ella Bloom; her lovelorn, allergy-challenged best friend, Angela Burrows; and Georgia Carter, a promiscuous 16-year-old patient at the health clinic where Ella works and where Rachel later seeks an abortion. Repeated references to breasts, limbs and organs in discomfort and disease foreground these women's uneasy relationships with their bodies and their lives; drunken and sorrowful sex abounds; connections with men are made and then broken. Rachel loves her mother, but disapproves of her shedding her wig, ordering a vibrator and falling in love in the face of death. As the dying woman Glatt's liveliest character evicts Rachel from her hospital room, readers may sympathize: much earlier, mother has diagnosed daughter, "You're thirty. Of course you need connection." Glatt's clear-eyed rendering of the complexities of relationships between friends and family enriches a story in which the steps toward healing are small and tentative, but moving nevertheless.
Interesting, dark and honest
A really interesting combination of stories about multiple women. The writing feels novice at times, which takes away from the ability to entirely immerse oneself in the characters and their lives. I still buy them, though. I wanted more at the end, but I also get the ending... Struggling between giving this 3 or 4 stars as a result. Overall it's an enjoyable read, and I wouldn't take back the time spent with it.