Monday, August 29, 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things; Bryn Greenwood

Thomas Dunne Books - 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is an amazing debut novel that is sure to make my top reads of 2016 list.  Beware - it's not a book that everyone one will love and, readers who steer clear of stories involving the abuse of a child should avoid this one.

The story begins in 1975 in the wide open space of Kansas where Wavonna "Wavy" Quinn, age 5, lives with younger brother Donal and her irresponsible parents.  Mother Val is mentally ill and often high on meth or pills.  Her father Liam and his thug buddies cook and deal meth nearby while, Wavy assumes responsibility for her younger brother.

"Scary mama" has drilled frightening thoughts into Wavy's head about never talking to anyone, the mouth being dirty and never touching anyone. Wavy must walk on egg shells as she tries to navigate life,  never knowing which mama personality will wake up each morning. Although she briefly gets to live with her grandmother, the stay is brief as her grandmother is unable to care for the children longterm.  It is here that Wavy does learn all about constellations and becomes fascinated with the night sky.

Wavy's life does get better when an acquaintance of her fathers crashes his motorcycle and Wavy comes to his rescue.  Jesse Joe "Kellen" is a mechanic and occasional drug runner for Liam.  Kellen has also had an abusive childhood and although he's in his early 20's he is kind and caring and he and Wavy form an unusual bond with Kellen becoming a protector of sorts.

This is an amazing debut novel and although a work of fiction, the author states that parts are autobiographical.  This is a book that made me squirm and feel uncomfortable at times. I read it slowly as sometimes I felt almost afraid to turn the page. The writing is raw and gripping and the story progresses at just the right pace. Many readers will be shocked and, not since, A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara, has a book moved me as much.

The verdict: wonderful yet disturbing.

5/5 stars
(review copy)


14 comments:

  1. I'm adding it to my wish list because I think we have similar taste.

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    1. Maybe "enjoy" is not the right word but, I hope this works for you as it did for me.

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  2. This sounds like my kind of book, Diane. I am sure it will take me back to cases in my career, and while most of my former colleagues steer clear of these topics, I find myself drawn in. Perhaps because some of it is familiar from my childhood, too.

    Thanks for sharing...I went and bookmarked this one on Amazon.

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    1. I am drawn to such topics for the same reason laurel so, I think I understand.

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  3. I think I may read this later, right now I'm wanting lighter reads. Adding it to my library's tbr list.

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    1. Definitely not a "light" read because of the subject matter.

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  4. I just downloaded the sample to this one and have heard great things. Glad to add you to the list! Didn't realize parts were autobiographical...that always makes things more interesting :)

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  5. A perfect 5 is quite impressive!

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  6. I recently read this and my review will appear soon. I have also read her two earlier novels and both are also great, though this one is her best yet!

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    1. I thought I read this was debut? I'll have to research her other books. Look forward to your review Judy.

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  7. This is a book I will have to be in the right frame of mind to read. Sometimes dark plots are appealing and more often lighter plots.

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  8. Adding this to my list! Your 5/5 rating has me intrigued.

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