Very Cold People; Sarah Manguso
Hogarth - 2022
Set mostly in the 1980s in the small town of Waitsfield, MA (not a real MA town). Waitsfield is a town where not much happens these days but, its history and former townspeople date back to the Mayflower. It is a town where the cold of winter feels like it lasts year round. Ruthie is the only child of an Italian father who works as an accountant and a Jewish stay at home mother. The family struggles financially: the bill collectors call on a regular basis, the food they eat is mostly unhealthy and whatever is cheap, their home is always freezing cold and the exterior of the house needs a paint job. The mother seems to suffer with severe depression. Ruthie isn't physically abused but, the scars from her emotionally neglectful parents still do a number on her over the years.
Fortunately for Ruthie, she does have a few friends. Most of her friends come from families with more money but, they do not have better lives. These girls are also to be pitied for very different reasons.
Told from the POV of Ruthie from grade school to adulthood, Ruthie is a character I cared about from the start. I loved the 1980's coming of age vibe, I only wished I had the power to have made her childhood better. The writing style was crisp and grabbed me from the start. It was almost like a memoir or a series of journal entries. We eventually learn the root of Ruthie's mother's depression. This was not an upbeat story but, it was a well-written one that packs a punch. There are a lot of darker subjects which surfaced in this 192 page book - dysfunctional families, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm and even sexual assault. Despite the dark tone, I liked this book a lot - for me, dysfunctional families makes for some thought provoking reading.
This is my second book in a row that featured people and families who have difficulty expressing emotions even to the people closest to them. Fortunately, my (2) current reads: One Italian Summer and Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci are more upbeat.
Rating - 4/5 stars
Thanks go to Hogarth and Edelweiss for allowing me access to this download in exchange for my unbiased review.)