Another free book from work! Yay! This has been out for a little while now, but since there was a proof copy lying in the back room, waiting for someone to pick it up, and I had not money, this was my reading material for a three hour bus trip. I basically read it all on the bus. Then I had to stay up late that night to finish it. Damn Deborah Robertson!
In Careless, the lives of three people begin to interact in ways they had not imagined. Pearl, an intelligent 8 year old is living with her younger brother and mother, who is, let’s face it, not very good at her job. It is up to Pearl to look after Riley, and make sure her mum stays out of trouble. There’s Sonia, a middle-aged Danish woman living in the suburbs, alone, still mourning the loss of her husband, a famous carpenter. And there’s Adam, a sculptor who has just hit the jackpot when it comes to art-world fame, by doing something pretty controversial. The three begin to meet, and try to deal with the events that are going on around them.
A warning: this book is not happy. At all. It is very, very good, but it is certainly not a feel-good novel. At all. Considering the themes of this book are grief, and how we deal with it, that’s probably not a surprise. In the hands of a lesser author, this would probably have been a mess of clichés, and feel good moments that make humanity seem kind and caring. Robertson does not fall into this trap. She deals with death and grief in a what that I think is more human than people like Jodi Picoult. Instead of opting for pulling the heart-strings, Robertson simply lets the story play out, and we reach the end with a better understanding of who we are. And don’t be fooled into thinking she’s going to let you get away with a happy ending for her depressing novel. She’s not. Which is why I was so surprised this was a first novel. Each of the characters we meet are complex people, and there is more to them than meets the eye.
I particularly enjoyed the structure of the novel. I know, good structure is what we all look for. Hear me out, though. I liked that each story began separately, and slowly came together, the characters beginning to interact, and finally coming to an understanding and acceptance. The ending is fantastically understated – so much so, that I had to go back and check the previous page to make sure what I thought had happened had actually happened. The idea that this cycle continues, over and over, is an interesting take on these intense themes, and I think it works well.
If you are feeling depressed, do not go anywhere near this novel. Otherwise, go out and get as close to this novel as you can. Well, not too close. But seriously, Careless is an excellently depressing novel that should be read by as many people as possible. Clearly I’m a few years behind, but now that I’ve caught up, I can’t wait to see what Deborah Robertson does next.