I'm here to review the FROGS nominated story of a very wonderful fellow claw!
This was a read longer than what I normally go for, but I'm glad I did it. Everything about this hit home. I'm not sure which parts of this might be related to real life experiences, but I can definitely kinda...I don't know. TELL there's some connection here. Just something that feels really close and personal, you know?
We don't really get to know in detail any characters other than Becca, though we meet them. But through her you still feel so much for some of them. Her two sisters that she's trying so hard to shield away from all the issues. The resentment at her "stepfather". That kind of grudging acceptance within her grief for what she knew might be coming with her mother. The confusion and guilt with Sam.
The background details you used to convey the scenes were amazing as well. How she focused in on certain details. The snow outside the office. The spots on the rug. And how she connected them. The flashbacks as she was trying to make sense of current situations, like her mind was trying to shy away from the present.
The fact that you ended this in a way that hints that things could get better is one I was very happy with. Her life has been so hard so far, and the fact that Sam came back is a very much needed bright spot.
This was wonderful, and I hope to see more from you soon!
Oh my gosh.
I haven't checked this story in ages. I'm sorry I'm so late with your review response.
It is. Perhaps more personal than I intended it to be, but with everything that has happened I wrote each part of this story in order to cope. It's based on a lot of things really. Have you ever listened to the song 'Bible Belt' by Dry the River? Some of the social issues stem from that. The rest of it was me, in a way. People often ask authors which part of themselves they put into a story and for this, at that time, most of me.
The ending was my favourite part. I left it open-ended, but positive? She loves Sam more than anything. I'd like to think they continued to work out their differences too.
Thanks for stopping by!
Liaaaa. I'm here for BvB.
I love your writing style. Rebecca's voice comes through so clearly, and it makes her incredibly relatable, even though many of the things that she's going through are not things that I've experienced personally.
You do such a fantastic job with the way you depict really difficult and emotionally charged situations. The laugher when Rebecca finds out that her stepfather isn't actually her stepfather, for example, was perfect - the laugh is slightly inappropriate, but it's also so, so common. I laugh in those situations, too, and it made her feelings and the story overall feel deep. Even in the depths of her despair, her cynicism and unflinching way of addressing what was going on in her life made me like her and empathize with her. Her feelings were messy and complicated in a way that I think a lot of people who have dealt with grief and depression and loss go through, and I loved it. Her personality shone through all of it without minimizing or dismissing it. It made her a strong and infinitely believable character, and I loved it.
It was really the small touches more than the big ones that made the story come alive for me. Her feelings about herself were both heartbreaking and utterly believable - feeling like progress isn't a thing that you get to have or watching something you wanted to go perfectly go up in flames instead is just gut-wrenching, and I was right there with her.
I also loved the way you tackled her feelings for and relationship with Sam. We didn't really get to know him, but I definitely felt Rebecca's feelings for him - I've been there before in a lot of ways. The way that grief for her mother both displaced and was displaced in a lot of ways by the ache of losing a friend that she loved so much worked so well, and ending the story with them reconnected was wonderful - I was glad to see a small light at the end of the tunnel for a really wonderful character.
And, as a side note - I loved your references. Alanis and Gillian Flynn and Jane Austen are wonderful and also really fit into the overall narrative of the story.
Amazing, amazing job. I adored this.
[transferred from figment]
*is very late*
I've experienced laughing in a very inappropriate situation once. It was exam time when I was at school, A Level Math. Before, we watched all the math teachers hop into a car and leave; this was perhaps the most omnious and obvious of signs that things were about to go horribly wrong, and indeed they did. I was 18. The exam was difficult to the point where you want to cry but you don't know how to? At the end of it, we came out just laughing because we didn't know what else to do. I call that hysteria. This was also seen on an episode of Grey's Anatomy. But yeah, you get it.
I think, she was able to show it in this way because she was recounting all of these in retrospect. It's very difficult to encapsulate what one feels at an particular time. Rebecca, in the story was a teenager, then about 19-20 at the end. Rebecca, the narrator, was a bit older, likely more jaded simply because of all that she had been through. Do you find that, at times? You're able to articulate it in a particular way only years after?
Relationships are unnecessarily complicated things, aren't they? You know well that this is a little bit (or perhaps even as I write this) considerably based on certain life events. Things that I felt at the time, which tends to contradict what I wrote before. Somethings are fickle, like death, significant loss which you cannot put into words. Other times, throughout your pain, you find some comfort in discussing how you feel in the most articulate of ways.
I am happy they reconnected, and got this sorted out. It's my hope for a lot of people out there. Silence and avoidance is unnecessary and painful. The more you deny something, the longer it stays with you.
Hey, I love adding RL references. It gives you a perspective of the timing, you know?
Thanks for reviewing, Branwen! I appreciate this so much
Lia, this is gorgeous. I don't know why I hadn't read it until now.
I think the most striking thing about this story is the way you set the tone. The first section - before anything has even happened and before we know what happened to her dad - there's this underlying feeling of emptiness and neglect, and your words are so, so effective. I absolutely love your use of detail, and what particular details you chose to focus on - the sound of the screen door creaking, rusty with disuse; the feel of cold seeping into the house; the sparseness of everything in the house. Honestly it's perfect.
One thing that also stood out to me was the scene where Becca hears about her mother's death and she recalls only the details of the carpet. That rang really true to me because at least in my experience you do tend to remember details of events that have a huge impact on you, and if you're just staring at one thing, that's what you remember. When I got the news of a death in my family via phone call, I was sitting in my car, parked in a lot, and I remember picking at the steering wheel. I remember exactly what that parking lot looked like, and how sunny and hot it was, even though it was years ago. And the way Becca kind of sinks into her own head for a bit there, after she processes it - I feel that. The way you write her emotions and numbness here and her silence as she just goes over it in her head and tunes out the words, are so realistic, so much so that I suspect some of that draws on personal experience, so here's some hugs just in case it does *hug*
It's also noticeable that you don't directly state what exactly happened to her mother, not until later. And that was so effective and really fit into the mood of the story - there's just an emptiness where she used to be.
Your title is perfect, too, by the way. A garden of weeds is kind of the perfect metaphor for neglect, for something that used to be beautiful kind of losing its blooms and starting to fall apart. This story is one of the most profound examinations of the theme of loss and emptiness that I've seen.
And even with all that, you manage to end it on - not a positive note exactly, but a promise that things will get better. It's a little hopeful, like flowers beginning to come back through all the weeds.
You truly have a talent - your writing is incredible. You should be so proud of this story. ♥ Thank you for sharing.
I'm so sorry for the late response.
When I first started writing this, I replayed 'Bible Belt' by Dry the River endlessly. The song itself evokes that sense of bleakness and prolonged despair, so much so that whoever is there became resigned to it. That's where aspects of the story were fleshed out. I'll be honest, what I had in my head was a lot darker than this, but in RL things took a turn, so the narrative went with it.
I imagine hearing that someone close to you had died doesn't sink in immediately. I've had to deliver that message many times as an intern, and certainly been on the receiving end of it myself. You do remember the oddest things. For some, in their grief, they remember nothing at all. (I'm sorry about your past loss as well *hugs*)
RL set a tone for this story. Finishing it was somewhat therapeutic.
I'm really glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you so much for your review!
When I finished reading this, I had to sit back and just breathe for a few minutes. The writing is so raw and heartfelt, and every word is so full of meaning that I'm actually so hesitant to write a review, in case I disturb the quality of the work. I feel like this is a piece that I will continually be coming back to and rereading; there is so much written into this that one read-through certainly won't be enough. I've already bookmarked this.
Your writing style is so powerful. I've never come across a better example of repetition of the word "I." Most of your sentences have the word "I" as the subject. To me, the simple and straightforward usage of "I" even as everything in Becca's life slowly begins falling apart made the story sound extremely personal.
The little choices that you included in this story that I found beautifully and intelligently done: naming her stepfather "Georgie-boy" to really focus on the childlike irresponsibility, creating a numbing sort of feeling by holding back from explicitly stating her mother's suicide at its first mention, showing how Becca so selflessly puts her sisters first, and discussing the emptiness of losing her best friend.
This work, as all important pieces should, made me feel uncomfortable. It made me think, and it made me feel, and at the end, I felt all the more distinctly how much there is for me to learn about the struggles of different people. So thank you for writing this, thank you so much. This is beautiful.
This story turned out a lot differently than I expected it to. Some scenes weren't even supposed to happen, but here they are.
Like you, I kept coming back to it. Each part wasn't written at the same time. Just when I thought I'd finished, something else happened, and there was more to add until it grew into what you see today. Very last part wasn't even in the original version. Something I added on to make it not so Gillian Flynn in the end, but Jane Austen :) Indeed, the I's make it personal for the author, and it was...it is. I wanted to try something a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I'd been writing FF for years. Before this one-shot, my novel OF is set in the UK. I wanted something modern, something real.
Childlike irresponsibility. I never thought of it that way. It was Rebecca's nickname for her not stepfather in her head. Maybe that's how she saw him, amongst all the other things.
The suicide reveal...it took a while. I didn't know how to say it, how to have Rebecca describe it. Even as an adult, I suspect a part of her still does not understand her mother's pain and is still angry. She essentially left her alone with two little girls. That's a lot to deal with, but her mother dealt with much more than she could bear.
I'm glad this gave you a bit of insight. I appreciate reading reviews because everyone has a different take on things.