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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recommended Reading: "Why Did I Ever" by Mary Robison

Why Did I Ever (2001), a unique and hilarious novel by Mary Robinson, must be described on two tracks. Track one is the plot. Protagonist Money Breton's life seems like a mess. She works as a Hollywood script doctor, traveling back and forth between California and her home in a small town in the South. Her job is constantly in jeopardy and her personal life is equally chaotic.

Money is thrice divorced, with a new boyfriend from whom she is withholding her home address. She has two adult children. Her son has recently been the victim of a sexual assault. Her daughter has an addiction problem. While trying to cope with the job, the boyfriend, and the kids, Money, who has her own drug issues, hangs out with her friend, Hollis, chats with neighbors, and takes rambling drives around the South.

Track two is what makes Why Did I Ever sparkle. The book is organized in what I imagine a book by comedian Steven Wright might look like. Within each chapter, the text is presented in numbered paragraphs, or short multi-paragraph section, some with their own title. The niceties of writing, such as transitions, sequencing, and other linking techniques, are largely omitted. Instead, the story is told in jolts and shots, interspersed with the random thoughts Money has over the day. For example:

And Yet
Overconfidence is a mistake for me. Not a big one, but it kicks
open the door for several others.



We end up at the River Cafe on Science Street. Who works here
according to their name tags are Toadstool and Paranoid Phil.
My Asparagus Tips Casserole has no asparagus. "
How're you doing?" the two servers ask me.
They must mean with this food.
"You guys are spoiling me," I say.

Why Did I Ever
is both a serious and a funny novel that is very interesting to read. A perfect book for right now.

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