“THIS ISN’T THE BEGINNING. I’m not sure what it is but I’ve decided to start here…
“Ummm, ok, I’m just going to start talking and then the words will come out without me thinking about them because what—what I did was… IIIII—I—I tried to kill myself.”
So begins Ava Mueller’s account of her life and misadventures. She grows up on a farm, sheltered by devout immigrant parents. Her mother fluctuates between suicidal threats and violent outbursts and her father, checked out of life long before Ava enters the scene, goes through the motions, tending crops, providing for his family and praying.
When a high school teacher tells Ava she should write, her world is shattered. “Boys go to school, girls help their mothers: this is what the Bible says,” her mother tells her. When Ava pushes for school, her mother issues an ultimatum. Ava chooses school.
Soon, she’s kind of crazy. Heartbroken, mistrustful and lonely, she quits school, drifts in and out of jobs, sexual relationships and friendships. Is there any point to, or value in, my own contact with air, reality and life? She thinks.
If you liked My Struggle, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark and My Name is Lucy Barton, this post-modern Northern Gothic is for you.
Book One takes us from Ava’s first memories to the beginning of high school.