The Life Before her Eyes by Laura Kasischke (♦♦♦♦)
Teenagers Diana and Maureen are in the girls-room--at Briar Hill High School—combing their hairs, looking in the mirror and sharing secrets, when Michael Patrick, a classmate, enters the room and points a weapon at them. In an instant he makes them chose which one of them he should kill.
Fast forward twenty years and Diana has everything she could have hoped for: a loving family, the perfect house and a part-time job teaching art at the local community college. Everything is perfect, or is it? Suddenly small events begin to disrupt Diana’s apparent happiness and in the end she faces a situation that puts her again in a life or death path.
I really liked this book. It is easy to read, the story flows despite the topic. It is beautifully written and even routine day to day events seem transcendent due to the lyricism of the prose. The event that opens the book is shocking enough as it is without having to imagine it. By now, unfortunately, it has become a common occurrence in schools all around this country, but when the book was written only an act of violence in school had taken place (Columbine), which makes the story more original and poignant.
The story follows Diana from her teenage years-- her mistakes, her crushes, her dating of bad and irresponsible older boys and younger men, her summer vacation before her senior year in high school, accompanied by her best friend Maureen-- and takes us into Diana’s middle age when she has accomplished everything she ever wanted yet life seems to be playing strange games with her perception. Has she made the best of the opportunity she got in high school?
I found this book only a week ago and bought it because I saw the movie based on it and liked it, also because I was looking for a book that I could read fast to review. The movie followed the book closely so I found myself anticipating certain events, but the ending—and everything that happened in between—was so bittersweet that knowing it in advance didn’t manage to spoil it. The author plants clues along the way that make you wonder if you have interpreted correctly.
My eyes were moist when I read the last lines. I had to re-read the ending at least three times to understand what had happened and by the third time I think I got it but I wish I could discuss it with someone who has read the book to see if I understood correctly.
In summary, The life Before her Eyes by Laura Kasischke is a poignant story that begins with a violent act in school and ends with, well, what happens as a result of that act. Beautifully written this book is not unforgettable but it is very powerful nonetheless.
And all the longing and damp hope of spring had finally amounted to something. At home the peonies had ruffled up in the front yard like the sleeves of a fancy blouse—but sticky, sweet, crawling with little red ants.
The grass was green as eye shadow, green as satin.
The sky was a piece of hard candy.
And the bees hovered around the honeysuckle like tiny golden angels playing trumpets.
The lilies had just begun to open, and a breeze made out of perfume was passing from the pure centers of them into the world.” Page 18-19
“Perhaps when she was younger than she now remembered being, she’d imagined the perfect life to be that of a movie star, a lounge club singer. Or maybe she’d imagine a millionaire husband and a penthouse in Manhattan, a limousine taking her from one glamorous party to another. A closetful of sequins. Flashbulbs snapping in her face.
But even then she must have known that that wasn’t it—
This was it.
Love. Family. Security.” Page 57
“Diana nodded, still regarding him carefully. After so many years she still found him attractive. More than once while driving downtown near campus, maybe on her way to meet him for lunch, maybe on some errand, she’d caught a glimpse of a man walking down the sidewalk, briefcase in one hand, the other tucked casually into his pants pocket, and she’d felt an instant tug of physical attraction, a desire to look more closely, before she realized who it was—the stranger she wanted to look at more closely was her husband.” Page 115