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Pickle Me This

September 5, 2015

Come Away With Me, by Karma Brown

come-away-with-meI am intrigued by questions of how people survive the seemingly unsurvivable, which was the reason I picked up Come Away With Me, Canadian writer Karma Brown’s debut novel. It’s the story of Tegan Lawson who had everything she’d ever wanted—an amazing husband and a baby on the way—when the dream is shattered by a horrific accident. Five months after the tragedy, her husband implores her to pick up the pieces of their life (and perhaps begin to forgive him for the accident, as he was driving the night it happened) by embarking on the trip of a lifetime to Thailand, Italy and Hawaii. Reluctantly, she goes, though she is not sure she’s ready (and neither are their families). And the trip itself does not prove to be the salve it might have been in a lesser novel, all of their troubles simply melting away—Tegan’s not taking her anti-depressants, she’s regularly still overcome with despair, her anger toward her husband seems impossible to let go of. And here we begin to see that this dream getaway is not the end of Tegan’s story but it’s the beginning of new one that’s vastly different than the life she’d planned on and dreamed of.

I read this book with pleasure, appreciating its light touch in particularly after spending a week carrying around the Joan Didion bio. Though it’s essential to note that my full appreciation of its remarkable structure and craft was not clear until close to the end. Until that point, I’d been putting some hollow characterization and a bit of narrative strangeness down to the fact that this was a(n otherwise capable) first novel. “I like this book, but…” I was saying to my husband yesterday. Not supposing that all this was part of an authorial sleight of hand that was so absolutely mind-blowing. By which I mean that the discerning reader should be encouraged to bear with this book: rewards will be forthcoming. You’ll see what I mean.

By rights, this book should be terrifically sad, and while I was discovered in a puddle of tears this morning by my concerned family (who wondered why I was taking even longer than usual to get out of bed), Come Away With Me leaves its reader buoyed and full of hope. In the best ways, it reminded me of Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave and also Laurie Colwin’s Shine On Bright and Dangerous Object (which I reread this summer and absolutely adored). It’s an impressive and memorable novel celebrating life and love and the possibilities of survival.

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