Week 25–Anthropology of an American Girl

Whew! I finished this week’s book with 24 minutes to spare. Almost didn’t make it this week. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. In two weeks, I’ll have finished half the year–and have read at least one book a week for 26 weeks. Yeah!

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0385527152&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrAnthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann was a novel that wrung me out.  It bereaved me, it beat me, and it lifted me up.  Eveline is a normal girl living in East Hamptons, New York. Her parents are amicably divorced, and she enjoys hanging out with her friends and doing things that would normally be considered “trouble,” except for the fact that her mother and father are very loose in their discipline.  She has a boyfriend, Jack, and a best friend, Kate.  On the surface, her life seems like nothing special, but Hamann takes this one simple girl and her simple life and creates the most detailed character profile I’ve ever read. Eveline is not normal at all.  She is deep and perceptive, and views everything through the eyes of an artist.  The simplest of things–sunsets, fingers, headlights, leaves–are all objects of intense fascination, and become part of analogies that I could never have dreamed of myself.  Nothing is too small or insignificant for Eveline’s notice.  Rather than seeming outrageous and unbelievable, Eveline is the sort of teenager one might wish the world would see more of.  Whether or not she “goes places” or “does big things,” the reader recognizes a soul that understands and craves beauty–a soul that appreciates the world.

That being said, the tone of the novel is one of obliterating sadness.  Even when Eveline is supposedly deliriously happy with the man she loves on first sight, the tone is melancholy at best.  Eveline does not seem capable of joy.  This may be because she knows, as does the reader, that their affair cannot last.  And when it ends she becomes a wind-up toy, someone who follows the flow of life, and allows others to take the lead.  She allows herself to be taken up into a relationship–one might say captured–by a man who wants her no matter what the cost. Through their three years of dating and their short engagement, he knows but doesn’t seem to care that she misses Rourke (the man she desperately and irrevocably loves), is dead inside, and can never love him. His main concern seems to be bodily possession.

The plot is choppy, but not in an irritating way. Though at times the stream-of-consciousness aspect of it can get confusing, it matches the hopeless tone of the novel. Eveline jumps back and forth in time, from high school to the end of college and her engagement, to encounters she experiences during her sophomore and junior year, and finally to the conclusion.  Surprisingly, this ending is not unhappy.  One would expect it, judging from the rest of the novel, but Eveline finally does wake up. She makes very adult discoveries about herself, and takes ownership of what she wants. She stops allowing herself to be controlled and retakes control of her own life.

Actually, despite many things that should have annoyed me, I was thoroughly sucked in to this novel.  I would definitely recommend it to my women friends. It’s a celebration of the female soul, and the female intellect.  It’s a fantastic novel about coming of age in America, and despite the fact that it’s about an average girl in an average town, it’s surprisingly engaging.  It’s much more impressive than I expected.


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