I think I just finished my favorite read of 2013. I know, pretty bold statement, huh? But this is just one of those rare books that burrowed its way into my heart and took up permanent residence there.
The thing is, I don't know how to talk about it. The way any of us react to any book on any particular day is extremely personal. Now no one is ever going to accuse me of being "objective" when it comes to talking about books--it's not something I even care to aspire to. But you know how some books are so personal that there is no extracting them from your own life? Tender Morsels was one of those books. The 10 p.m. Question is another.
Okay, a few of the easy things...I loved the name of the pets, particularly Fat Controller...I loved that it is set in New Zealand...I loved the mentions of all the mouth-watering baking Frankie's mom does...I love the Aunties (OMG--I loved the Aunties!)...I loved that it was about ordinary life. Ahhh, but there is where we cross the line into difficult to talk about...
The book focuses on Frankie, a 12-year-old boy, with definite anxiety issues. It focuses on his wonderful, quirky, oh-so-realistic family and on the myriad relationships involved. It focuses on his friends, one long-time (Gigs) and one new (Sydney). I said "oh-so-realistic" in describing his family...which isn't the same as saying your stereotypical normal family. See, Frankie's mom hasn't left the house in 9 years. No one talks about it. Well, except his new friend Sydney, who talks about everything.
Sydney was an insatiable questioner; a steady stream issued from her mouth the entire time Frankie was with her. She had a bottomless bag of queries about everything, and everyone--Frankie, Gigs, Ma, Uncle George, the cat, the dog, the people next door... She was indecently curious. She seemed quite unrestrained in the way other people were, by delicacy or a sense of personal privacy, or the idea that it was perhaps none of her business. Apparently most things were her business.
Oh crap. I'm getting nowhere here. Okay, let me say this. This book is, in my opinion, an incredibly realistic look at what anxiety feels like. Here's possibly too-much-personal information. I have a 12-year-old son with generalized anxiety disorder. He used to have selective mutism as well. I have a daughter with anxiety issues, as well as OCD. And I have some pretty major problems with anxiety myself. I *can* leave my house, but unless Rich is with me or I absolutely *have* to, I choose not to. (The fact that we had to sell our van, and that we now have just one car, a car that I can't even drive because it's a stick shift--this is a blessing of major proportions to me. It makes Rich's life harder, and yet he gladly endures it, partially for the money savings but mostly I think because it takes so much stress off my daily life. In fact, Uncle George, Frankie's father, reminds me quite a lot of Rich.) But as I was saying, there were just so many things in this book that made me certain the author had personal connections to the hell of overwhelming anxiety herself. The way Frankie makes lists in his head to distract himself when the worrying thoughts are threatening to totally overwhelm him. The way he has relatively easier periods.
It was strange the way this happened. He'd noticed it before. One week he'd by bouncing along relatively happily, only a couple of minor problems bothering him. A week or two later, the problems would have burgeoned and multiplied until the list of matters to solve dominated his thoughts and none of his usual pleasure could give him a scrap of comfort.
And the way it at times just seemed to overwhelm him.
He wanted the manic listing to end; he wanted to extinguish the horror waves and the cold fingers around his heart. He wanted the malignly insistent thoughts to be banished forever; he just wanted it all to stop, and he wanted so very badly to sleep.
I've got to be honest...this book made me feel guilty. As hard as I, in all the ways I can, try to not let my incessant worrying affect the kiddos, I know it has to. It's unavoidable. And yet, it also made me feel okay, feel human, flawed of course, but human, even if not in the way that is largely considered "normal."
Sheesh. I'm still not getting anywhere here. How about you just go read Ana's review instead, if you haven't already. Seriously...that would be the thing to do.