Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans was the antidote to my reading doldrums. The characters were real and honest. The stories were memorable and the imagery was just so striking. I loved it!

Photo Credit
(and yes, I am weirded out
by the idea of Libby Lu,
glad it's gone)
Perhaps my favorite story out of the bunch was "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go" where Georgie, an Iraq vet, is honorably discharged because he has a nervous breakdown after two little girls are murdered.  He starts seeing them everywhere. (I loved how his buddy Ramirez warns him against telling the psychologist, "Lieutenant sends you to talk to someone, don't say that shit. White people don't believe in ghosts.") Once home, he goes to visit his ex-girlfriend who, unsurprisingly, is living with a new guy. But, he's still friends with her and offers to look after her daughter, Esther, until she can find a new sitter.  Pretty soon, Esther starts calling him "Daddy" which he lets slide because he kind of likes it.  He starts spending more and more money on her, because he doesn't feel right accepting pay from her mom. At one point he takes her to one of those Libby-Lu type stores and she gets a makeover while he flirts with the stylist (letting it drop that he's a veteran and allowing her to think that he's Esther's father).  Turns out the latest Hannah Montana look-alike will be in town for a Libby-Lu sponsored concert. Of course, Esther would love to go, but realizes very quickly by the number of zeroes on the flier that tickets are way to much money. The stylists recommends they enter the video contest where all she'll have to do is say why she'd like the tickets--with a sob story like they have, veteran father etc. etc., they're a shoe-in.  Needless to say, Georgie's house of cards begins to topple at this point.  But you just love this guy. He is so well-intentioned, no matter what mistakes he's made. You want things to go well for him.

Photo Credit
Another of my favorites was "Jellyfish." William's wife left him and took their young daughter Eva.  After that, William just settled in to the "temporary" apartment and ended up living there for nearly twenty years--until the roof falls in on him.  Forced to relocate, he decides to look for a place where he can invite Eva to stay. Eva has not always made the best choices and lately broke up with her girlfriend and is living in her art studio since she can't afford rent on two places. William still thinks of her as the little girl in the photos he has stuffed in his box of mementos (which he forgets to take when the building is condemned and has to fight to get back into the apartment for them).  This memory of Eva's really sums up their relationship:

She closed her eyes and could remember nothing but that morning years ago, dull sky, October leaves on the ground. He had taken her to get a last slice of New York pizza while her mother watched the moving men put the last of their things on the truck.

"It's not so far away," he'd said. "Remember how much Daddy loves you?"

"The whole world much and then some," she'd remembered. She's thought of love being like tentacles, reaching from wherever he was to wherever she was. She'd giggled.

"Is that funny?" he'd asked.

"I am thinking of you like a jellyfish," she'd said, but he hadn't understood.
Doesn't that passage just crystallize that overwhelming love a parent has for a child while often having no concept of that child's interior life?

I love how each of these stories depicts the characters' true selves as well as the self they project to others. And I loved that no matter how self-destructive they were or how despicably they behaved toward one another, they still had a kernel of goodness that made you sympathize with them.

Go read this. It's good. This is her first book, so I'm anxious to see what she writes next.

<I checked this book out of my library.>


  1. That title is terrific; sounds like the stories are too. Thanks for the recommendation :)

  2. I know! Isn't that best title ever?