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2 thoughts on “Safekeeping

  1. When I started this book by Abigail Thomas, I was delighted to be reading flash essays compiled as linked essays because this is what I am interested in doing as a writer, also. The first nine pages read urgent and passionate. For example, “Something Valuable Given Away on the Street” felt alive with descriptions of place from scents to sights. Also, I thought her use of internal dialogue was genius.
    In Apple Cake” her sentences are clipped and poignant informing the reader of her desire with a symbol for it. Her voice in this one is wonderful, empathetic. I also gleaned that apple cakes serve as a distinct repetition, a well-used trope to signify maturity, the difference between women and girls.
    Initially, I thought it was so strategic to reference the previous flash essay with a word or a phrase to help unfold the new essay, which added clarity, as well as more description and information. She’s clever, as noted in “Hugs,” and a few others.
    Now. With that all being said, this book’s structure and impact started to break down for me between the guesswork required to make sense of some timing issues. I do not have to read these linked essays in a linear fashion to enjoy them, but they began to get too convoluted.
    Some of them also beget the big questions:
    “Why should I care?”
    Why should I care about your divorce or your difficult marriage?
    I lost interest and patience. For instance, in “Marriage” and “It Got Better” I feel like she backed off, she could have went deeper into the abandonment of her kid, but she didn’t. The piece would have been more powerful if she had explored this aspect deeper instead of the mundane. “No Happy Answers” is another example of her flash that had me thinking, “Who cares?” People divorce. Why is your experience special? She backed off again.
    However, she completely redeemed herself in a couple of ways:
    She connected the essays (that weren’t done in a linear way) with phrases and words acting as objects and symbols. I could get on board with this repetition.
    Her use of lists surprised and delighted me. I liked that she used them to convey her grief and passion.
    But, most of all, this book paid off in the end for me because it was an ode, a eulogy, to the ex-husband who passed away. The theme of grief and coming to terms with it combined with growing up within and without the relationship that she grieves was powerful.
    She wrote best when she chose the tender writing of her children, the apple cake symbolism, and in the “eulogy” type of essay concerning her ex-husband, especially in “What the Moment Can Hold.” This piece was longer than the other essays so she was able to explore more. It is beautiful and still comes across as compressed by focusing on one feeling, one theme. Some of her writing really touched me, especially the parts about moving on with life when you’re still enveloped in grief.

    Liked by 1 person

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