Thursday, 8 August 2019

Do Not Feed the Bear - Rachel Elliott

Wow, this book knocked me sideways. I wasn’t expecting it. I had no expectations in fact. But this book could have been written just for me. It's not just a book I read and reviewed . It's a book that read and reviewed me. It’s quirky, it’s compassionate and it understands people, well, it understood me!! If you want a convenient theme I guess it’s about grief and guilt but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s about kindness and fulfilling your potential - if you are able. It’s about people; raw and transparent. Heart wrenching especially if you recognise the depth of emotion behind their actions and reactions. It’s a book about synchronicity, right time, right place or wrong time and wrong place. The links between all of these seemingly disparate people in a fictional St. Ives is quite beautifully done with no hint of contrivance. 

I guess it’s also a book about how some singular, yet flawed people find each other and are offered the opportunity to understand each other. It explores vulnerability and perceived inadequacies. And above all it explores love, in its purest sense, and what it does to us, when we have it, when we lose it and when we plain just don't know what to do with it. 

The structure of the book works seamlessly with some intriguing chapter headings and the voices of all the ‘cast’ given even voicings. You think that dear, sweet Sydney is the main character and I guess she is but as you read you find that everyone is important and it’s not about how much ‘book time’ they’re given, it’s quality not quantity. They all have their demons to grapple with. 

The ‘Do Not Feed the Bear’ of the title is a poignant metaphor that Sydney explores artistically and shows us the depth of her understanding of Ruth and their relationship. And relationships are key in this book, parent ,child, sibling, lover, friend, stranger, young and older. The entire gamut is run. The author’s perception is faultless.

The book is peppered with salient observations and quotable maxims that had me laughing, crying and just shaking my head in disbelief at this writers ability to hit the nail on the head. 
Like these, for example:

‘Dusty Springfield is to music what Patricia Highsmith is to fiction.’

‘Feedback is a term for unwanted sound distortion.’

‘Without hope, all we have is nostalgia.’

‘Every moment in a person’s life is interesting if you find out how they see it.’ 

I was reminded too of Fritz Perl’s Gestalt Prayer with these words,

‘I’m okay and what is happening in this moment is okay.’

The characterisations are little short of perfect as this writer demonstrates an ability to see a whole person and lays them bare with their faults and their virtues, characters  of honesty and vulnerability.

The narrative style is easy. It flows like Sydney's free running but with humour and compassion. If there's one word to express sympathy and empathy as a fused attribute I don't know what it is but this book is it. And I'm not going to try and summarise what happens in the book because that wouldn't necessarily tell you what the book is about. Just read it. 

In one fell swoop this book has subjectively made it’s way to my top read of the year so far. It’s one of those books that speaks to you if you let it. I’m not even sure if I can truly objectively say it’s well written, well characterised, blah blah blah, it doesn’t matter. When a book grabs me like this my critical faculties all but desert me and I lapse into superlatives.  This book reached me and it stays with me and I was moved to tears several times by the truths contained within its covers. 

And I must apologise for I don’t even think I can find enough words to express what I feel about this book. Thank you Rachel Elliott for writing it. Thank you Jenni Leech and Tinder Press for entrusting me with a proof of this wonderful story. 

No comments:

Post a Comment