Homage to Hilary Thayer Hamann

Here’s a quote from what I’m currently reading:

“Of course, being female is always indelicate and extreme, like operating heavy machinery. Every woman knows the feeling of being a stack of roving flesh. Sometimes all you’ve accomplished by the end of the day is to have maneuvered your body through space without grave incident.”

Have you ever started a book and been so drawn in by the characters, so enthralled by the author’s mastery of the language, that you never want it to end? Have you ever been afraid that the conclusion may not live up to the promise in the beginning?

That’s how I feel about Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann. To be clear, so far I’ve read 296 pages of this 597 page novel. I’m just barely past the halfway point, and I don’t generally listen to people’s  recommendations or critiques of books they’ve yet to finish. There’s still plenty of time for me to become disenchanted with the plot, or dissatisfied with the ending.

But even with that in mind, I will say this:  this woman can write. And the language in this book is art. I’m blown away at the halfway mark and will blog after finishing to tell you how I feel then.

In the meantime, I chose the excerpt above to share because it stopped me in my tracks. I have never read anything so evocative of what it felt like to be a young woman. I felt like crying out, “Yes! I remember! It was exactly like that.”

Exactly. Like. That.

The lead character, Eveline, is obviously lovely, though there aren’t expansive physical descriptions of her. Eveline is the narrator, and even though this artistic young woman senses the sometimes frightening and heady power of youthful beauty and sexuality, she doesn’t see all of that in the mirror. We know she’s beautiful only by the reactions of people around her.

Like so many young women, she catches glimpses of her sexual power and attractiveness, almost like a camera going in and out of focus. Remember? But at 17, she doesn’t completely have a handle on that yet. Innocence and danger walking hand in hand.

Do you remember?

Yes. I remember. This coming-of-age story conjures up memories that have been buried for years.

While the songs change, hemlines go up and down, and the location can be Eveline’s home town on Long Island or a small town on the shore of Lake Erie, this book makes me believe that being on the cusp of womanhood in the last half of the 20th century rings that same, sweet alto note through time and space and memory.

UPDATE 6/25:  I finished the book yesterday and recommend it highly. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give away any more information about the plot. Suffice to say, the ending did not disappoint. This is an excellent read, start to finish – hard to put down.

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