Friday, August 2, 2013
Danielle—a teen prone to panic attacks, a mediator by temperament, a quiet second among vocal, talented friends—has forged a meaningful relationship with a five-year old named Humphrey. She is his babysitter. He is her imaginative friend with a steep vocabulary. And one day, early in the book, he is killed while he is in her care. He runs into a car on a suburban street at dusk. Not her fault—that's what everyone says. But Danielle can't even talk about it.
The town talks, however. Its people clamor to use the accident as an excuse to plant sidewalks instead of trees, spend money on lights that are not needed, and talk about the "illegal aliens"—or undocumented immigrants—upon whom they'd like to pin Humphrey's death. It's a big storm. There are many weather systems. Danielle's friends and family and neighbors, not to mention her therapist and a local journalist, would like to implicate her somehow—force her to speak up, act out, exclaim. But Danielle can't even remember the moment of Humphrey's death. It's all white noise. It's beyond her. And always, in her imagination, her memory, is Humphrey himself, one of the most endearing little boys I've encountered in all of literature. He is big hearted, smart, playful, and still a kid. He is the sure thing, and he is gone.
A trained lawyer, Levy writes with tremendous objectivity and full-roundedness about a prickly, raging issue (to whom does this country belong?). She offers cautions against referring to human beings as "illegals" and "aliens." She presents all sides of a tricky story, but her issue never dominates. At the heart of her story are wisely formed characters, clear, sustaining language, and teens who talk like teens—the respectful, intelligent, heartbroken kind.
Marissa says she isn't anti. She's pro.And then there's all that love that a babysitter feels for the child in her care—innocent love, respectful love. There's the conversation that must ultimately be had between the babysitter who feels such guilt and the mother who feels such loss.
Well, I'm both.
Here's what I'm anti: random deadly accidents.
Here's what I'm pro: do-overs.
Send me the website for that.
Tender, compassionate, big—a book written neither to leverage nor advertise an issue (but to illuminate it)—I recommend Imperfect Spiral to every reader out there.