When just a young girl Mona Grey’s father becomes ill with a mysterious and unnameable disease. From sporty, talented and vibrant to emotionally detached, withdrawn and tortured. Mona seems to become just as crippled and stunted by her father’s illness. Suddenly she is a self-confessed ‘quitter’ with obsessive compulsive tendencies like keeping a potted plant by her bed which she ceremoniously taps until she ‘feels better’.
Now a grown woman Mona has become even more introverted. Aside from her beloved job working as a maths teacher in an elementary school, her days seems to be consumed with trying in vain to protect her small family from a doomed fate she cannot articulate but which haunts her at every turn.
Seeing signs in random objects, Mona is horrified when she discovers a 51 which she is sure must be an ominous premonition of the fate of her father.
Her OCD and mental state seem to worsen but then salvation seems to come in the form of a man infatuated by her and idiosyncrasies. Will Mona grab onto this chance of happiness or sink further into the murky depths of her own mind.
Quirky, original and peppered with surprising humour, Bender artistically balances a surprisingly optimistic tone with a haunting story of how one’s mind can sometimes be our own worst enemy.
After reading Bender’s first book, The particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake, I was worried that I wouldn’t sympathise with the main character as I failed to do with the narrator of The Sadness Of Lemon Cake. Luckily there is something far more personable about Mona. She’s vulnerable, caring and deeply fragile. Her actions can be exceedingly baffling and yet I still found myself resonating with her and furthermore surprising myself by how easily I could empathise with her.
BOOK GROUP THOUGHTS…
I really wasn’t sure how this book would go down. On the one hand it’s fresh and unpredictable, on the other hand would it be a little to ‘different’?.
Much to my surprise the book seemed to be quite well received. We all seemed drawn into Mona’s world, intrigued by what made her tick and what caused her strange and often sad life.
Did she have OCD? Or were there stronger mental health problems to blame? Or was it neither of these things and was it actually her fathers own removal from life that was to blame?
One reader simply asked ‘what is this book about’? And off course this threw up even more questions.
For me it’s about love, loss and the lies we tell ourselves in order to feel whole. It’s about hope and it’s about doom. I wont spoil the ending but needless to say Bender remained master of my interest till the last and not once did her story become predictable.
This books a brilliant summer read and also a great book group choice if you want to get people talking.
So who else has read the book and what did you think?