Sunday, August 15, 2010
Bloggers, not long ago, were debating the value and promise of stories told in the first-person present —a conversation that I (known to lean in that direction) followed with interest. Some bloggers will not, it was revealed, read a book told in the right now. Others will give young adult novelists that room, but not those writing for adults.
With Father, King artfully demonstrates just how powerful first-person present can be—not just when she is channeling 11-year-old Daley throughout the first section of the book (Daley as the child trapped inside her parents' bewildering divorce), but again when she takes us into Daley's life as a post-graduate student (when she forgoes love and a career to help her willful, alcoholic father fight his demons) and, finally, when she introduces Daley as a wife and mother caught in the final months of her father's slow dying. Over and over, we feel the anguish of a daughter's love for a tormented (and often downright cruel) man, we hear the brittle snaps of faith, we balance on the thin, tentative thread of believing that perhaps this time, perhaps at last, the father will redeem himself and earn the daughter's love.
There is a difference between a ruinous relationship and a ruined one. King's first-person present navigates the border lands. It's a suspenseful navigation, an artful one, in which nothing is absolute or predetermined. Daley doesn't know what's going to happen because she's living inside the right now. We live it with her in the sort of profound fashion that no other tense would have allowed.
After I finished Father, I wanted to know more about Lily King and discovered, on her web site, two fascinating interviews. King is a real-thing writer; there's so much merit in what she has to say.