Wednesday, August 20, 2008

too indulgent

We Became Like a Hand by Carol Ortlip
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: memoir
Challenge: TBR, A-Z (author)
Review: In this overly indulgent memoir, Carol Ortlip tries to make sense of the first forty years of her life. The oldest of 5 sisters, with a mentally ill mother who eventually leaves the family, Carol bears a lot of weight on her shoulders. When one sister dies in an accident just before graduating high school, perhaps it is no surprise that Carol finds the weight to hard to bear and abdicates her role as eldest, leaving both physically (at one point she goes to Alaska to work on a crab fishing boat) and mentally (descending into addiction). The last third of the book is the story of her struggles to deal with her own issues and the sisters' struggles to become the unit they once were with one part missing, just in time to come together to watch another sister die of a lingering illness.

As satisfying as it is to know that Carol is ultimately able to be there for her sisters, I did not find this book very satisfying overall. The language poetic to the point of being drippy, and I couldn't help but feel that Carol was just indulging herself in writing this memoir. Events and experiences are recording in what I assume is a faithful manner, but very little insight is given as to why various family members act as they do. I hope Carol found some release in writing this story, but I can't help wondering what she expects her readers, at least those outside the Ortlip sisterhood, to find in it.

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