Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
Ok...it was bound to happen after the string of 5 star reviews I've had. Let's talk about Surrender. I've had this book sitting patiently on my shelf for awhile and I've been anxiously awaiting it. It's won numerous awards and I'm not saying that it's not deserving of them. The book is absolutely beautifully written. Hartnett certainly has a gift when it comes to writing, and her story is a smart one. Here's my problem...I can't remember the time that I've read a more depressing story! I don't mind depressing novels at all. In fact, as messed up as it may sound, I usually prefer them. But this is the most dreary, without hope, not a single ray of light novel that I have read in a while.
The book begins with our main character Anwell, who later takes on the name Gabriel (after the archangel), on his deathbed at the age of 20. To show the beauty of her words, I give you the opening passage:
"I am dying: it's a beautiful word. Like the long slow sigh of a cello: dying. But the sound of it is the only beautiful thing about it."
And from this point, the novel gets progressively MORE dreary as Anwell tells the story of his short 20 years and what led up to his current state. Anwell comes from an abusive home and there is something that he has done in his past that is a constant haunt to him...something that is normally construed as evil, but was done in a moment of panic by a boy who is a good natured soul. Anwell meets a boy named Finnigan one day and forms a friendship based on a pact: Anwell will do only good, Finnigan will do only evil. This is Anwell's chance at redemption for his past. Soon, a string of arson attacks plagues the town that Anwell lives in and he realizes how dangerous his new friend is. Anwell's only other friend is his dog, Surrender, and I have to leave the rest of the plot synopsis here as the tale would be given away to say more.
You can see why I was drawn to this story. I still maintain that it's a well written novel, a powerful and memorable story, a heartbreaking story, and deserving of it's praise. But it left me feeling so down and there was never really a moment in the book where there was any ray of light for this character. As you can probably tell, this novel deals with mental illness and of course I have a special place for characters whose lives are deeply affected by that. I think that's what was most disturbing for me...no redemption was offered. I understand that many people with mental illness do indeed suffer every day, but this was just such a bleak scenario where things just got worse and worse. As a counselor, I'd like to look towards a ray of light and trying to find hope.
So there it is...has anyone else read this one? I'd be curious to hear other people's thoughts on it.