27 February 2011

Family; Micol Ostow

FamilyFamily by Micol Ostow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Novels in verse are a difficult sell to my students (and me), mostly because the narrative can sometimes be lost in the attempt to create the poetry. In Family, there's some of that, but in a way it works - Mel is "broken", and sometimes on drugs, so the swirl of images could be reflecting that.

If the reader isn't aware of the Manson Family, the murders or the backstory, this might be even more confusing. Mel is a runaway who meets Henry (the Manson stand-in), immediately recognizing Him as Someone without limits, with incredible power and infinite love. He takes her to a ranch where she meets His family - "dirty hippies" who scavange for food, share clothes and bodies and babies. The men eat before the women, and only Henry lives in relative comfort (as is His due).

Shelly is Mel's sistertwin, and one day she confides that she's pregnant (the father could be Henry, junior or any other of the men in the family). She and Mel keep the secret until one day when Shelly miscarries (although that part isn't quite clear; it could be an induced abortion). At this point, there's something going on and Henry has been dissed by the Man, helter skelter needs to rain down so that He can bring His message/music to the people.

The last part is the least coherent, as Mel is drugged during the murders. It's also unclear what happens at the very end, and I think that the reader is supposed to come to their own understanding. Again, it somewhat works but I'm not sure that all readers will get to the end: I suspect that only those who really love poetry will struggle through (between the flashbacks, drug-induced imagery, Mel's confused state and the subject matter, this is a difficult read).

ARC provided by publisher.

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