Sebold didn't disappoint. The story of an intense mother-daughter, love-hate relationship set in an area of Pennsylvania not all that far from my home town, I found it very easy to relate to some of the sentiments expressed by Helen, the main character. At one point she tells us:
"In those moments, I would feel the cords of my upbringing pulling me back. I had not been raised to hug or to comfort or to become part of someone else's family. I had been raised to keep a distance. ... Judging Natalie as my mother had judged me was, I felt like telling her son, just my ass-backward way of showing love. I'd spent my life trying to translate that language, and now I realized I had come to speak it fluently. When was it that you realized the thread woven through your DNA carried the relationship deformities of your blood relatives as much as it did their diabetes or bone density?"
The book's setting especially resonated with me when Helen mentions her family acquiring a quilt from an artisan at the Kutztown Fair, and when Jake, Helen's ex-husband, comments on how that area of Pennsylvania seems never to change, at one point commenting, "East Germany seemed cheerier than this."
Ultimately, it is a book of letting go and moving on. I find myself wanting to be able to do what Helen eventually does - to face the world, despite one's past, and move forward, accepting all consequences. I struggle with finding my own self, just as the character did.
Someday I hope I can do that.