Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reading in Retrospect: "Me & Emma" by Elizabeth Flock

Here's a book I read in my pre-blogging days. I picked it up in the library two years ago because the cover was so striking, with such a pretty color of blue in the background. Yup, shiny stuff catches my eye just as you'd expect of a magpie, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

But there is more to this book than a pretty cover. It's obvious that there is something to a book when a self-professed literary amnesiac can remember it so vividly two years later. In fact, if I had to describe this book in one word, I would say, "WOW."

For the first half of the book I was somewhat horrified--who wants to read about an 8-year-old girl who is sexually and physically abused by her stepfather? But by about halfway through the book I was tangled up in the story and couldn’t put it down. AND THEN there was an explosive surprise towards the end which completely caught me unawares. I never saw it coming. This caused a huge shift in perspective, very similar to what I experienced in watching the ghost-story movie The Others. Once I was given the big revelation in that movie I had to immediately watch the entire thing again, and I saw the whole story in a completely different light. I was tempted to do the same with this book. All day long, after finishing the book, I went over different passages in my mind, realizing what it really meant now that I knew the truth.

Here's a quick summary of the plot that doesn't give anything away: Eight-year-old Caroline “Carrie” Parker lives in poverty in Toast, North Carolina with her distant and somewhat abusive mother, her alcoholic and distinctly abusive stepfather Richard, and her 6-year-old sister named Emma. Carrie’s real father died perhaps 2 years previously at the hands of two men trying to rob their house, as witnessed by Emma. Carrie is having a hard time at school, finding she speaks out loud the thoughts she thinks are only in her head, embarrassing herself often, getting in many fights, and acquiring the nickname “Scary Carrie.”

Carrie's childhood reminds me of that of Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle. In fact, for anyone who says they liked that book, I always recommend Me & Emma. Likewise, if you couldn't stomach Walls' book, don't bother with Flock's. But, oh, I hope you bother with it.


Elle said...

I LOVED the twist in The Others, I wouldn't have been able to guess this book also has a mind-blowing twist. I'll keep an eye out for this one!

Kate said...

This was an amazing book! I also read it about two years ago - and I'll make a confession. I actually flipped ahead to read a little bit (I didn't flip to the surprise, thankfully) because I needed to know a little more about how it ended or I would have stopped reading. It was so tough to read about that little girl getting abused.

I read your review and it brought me back to the story and I got the shivers all over again. What a fantastic read!

Kate said...

...also! There's an award for you at Kate's Library! :)

Kathy said...

@Elle--I do hope that just knowing there is a twist to anticipate doesn't ruin it for you. Sometimes I think that expecting a twist makes it easier to suss out.

@Kate--thanks so much for the cute award!!