Books are one of my favorite things. They are more than a past-time, they are passage ways into worlds and even into the people I know, and the people I wish I could be. So, it comes as no surprise at what a treat it has been to tuck into our tellers' stories about the books that have shaped their lives for our Storycatchers Live event happening tomorrow: Literary Upheaval. My love grew even greater as people who could not physically make it to the event itself still reached out to share their words, stories, and even their voices to what different books have meant to them in their life. Margeaux tells her story below about the beautiful book, SHE'S COME UNDONE, and how for her, the book undid her, but rebuilt and shaped her at a young age. Read and LISTEN to Margeaux below.
She's Come Undone
by Margeaux Reed
I came across She’s Come Undone when I was in the 5th grade. If you’ve read it you probably realize that it’s not necessarily age appropriate material for a 10 yearold but we didn’t exactly have censorship in our home when I was kid. When I was 4 I was watching Cujo, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and not Bugs Bunny but Who Framed Roger Rabbit. With that being said - my brain was already prepared for a coming of age story that would be copacetic with the socially woke school of life that I had been attending via my TV screen and the pages of books.
When you’re compiling a mental image for a book as a child who hasn’t explored much of the world you tend to take visuals from what you’ve experienced or from the world around you. It’s kind of like in dreams when you’re in a place that you know is a specific place but doesn’t necessarily look the same or has minor glitches and alterations to it as your brain finds ways to naturally skew them. You start with your own picture and then it gets adjusted as the description of the setting develops. Because I related so very deeply to this story – the places described in the book became my hometown. I walked with the main character, Dolores Price, down Kimberly Avenue and dipped into the pharmacy for a malt with her. Her trusted and endearing high school guidance counselor’s office sat beside my childhood home. My knobby and bruised knees dangled over her wooden patio that overlooked the alleyway between the brick apartment building and the diner next door. I found a way to completely transport myself to her world and it ended up being an incredibly cathartic experience that would help me cope with my upbringing, my experiences, and who I was as a person.
There were many coming of age stories and films for girls. I read and watched nearly all of them but didn’t necessarily find myself really relating with the characters. The issues that they talked about in these stories seemed somewhat trivial to me. I had previously read, watched, or experienced much more serious matters and I wondered why they never actually touched on the real shit. It seemed like a common theme that definitely crept into my life in a place so small that it was literally considered a village. After a while it became very apparent that the reason I found it so easy to envision it all playing out in my hometown was because it was a story being lived by several people growing up in scenarios just like mine. It details and tracks the trajectory of a person stunted by major life events and the effect they can have when closure is not provided. The trials and tribulations as well as the rites of passage that Dolores endures and braves throughout the book were similar to my own, therefore my trajectory was changed because of it.
This book pre-emptively described and explained to me what every adult would fail to. In the Midwest, and I’m sure many other places, we tend to suppress and repress. I think throughout the years we’ve found ways to break through in ways but it’s still a major problem. We don’t want to talk about tragedy, we don’t want to talk about depression, anxiety, and other happiness-hindering mental illnesses. We want to pretend that everything is alright and if you don’t acknowledge the problem then maybe it doesn’t really exist? Maybe that’s how we find our noses buried in books in the first place – to avoid the reality that sits before us.
I think one of the most prominent passages details Dolores’ rehabilitation in a mental institution. Her childhood and young adulthood have been littered with moments of trauma, agony, and chaos that were left unexplained and deeply damaged her psyche. Her doctor opts for a treatment that entails allowing her to experience her life over. To start in the womb via the facilities pool, to be a free and unaffected infant, to slowly learn right from wrong, love from hate. I learned these things with her. I learned them from her because no one had told me.
It’s strange but at 10 years of age I became highly aware of the fact that a lot of pertinent information was being withheld from me that would strongly affect the way I treated my relationships with others and myself. And I wonder…if I hadn’t found it….if its dog-eared pages hadn’t been an extra limb for me and its words hadn’t been my mantra…would I even be the person that I am now? Would I process and digest the world around me without it’s guidance? I picked it up from its place on one of the rotating towers because it was visually appealing – the cover shows a vast, cerulean ocean and the floating face of a woman peering through the clouds in the sky. I’ve often gone through life feeling as though I was living in a cloud. Always traversing the days through a veil of fog that would sometimes make me question reality. I never would’ve guessed that this novel would be my how-to guide on how to lift that cloud cover.
As a teenager I did some sleuthing and found the mailing address for the author. I wanted to tell him how much the book had meant to me as well as his other equally influential works. To my surprise I received a postcard back – it was the same picture as the cover of the book. I locked eyes with the floating face for a few moments; caught up in disbelief. I flipped over the card to read that he was touched by my words and grateful that he could help. To this day that postcard is one of my most prized possessions and my deepest source of inspiration. I can only hope to create work that acts as a compass in this bizarre thing we call “life”.
Listen to this story as told by Margeaux herself HERE