So, anywy, sometimes cool stuff happens when one hangs out on the Drollerie Interact pages. In this particular instance, I got a free preview copy of a book they will be releasing shortly on the condition that I send my thoughts the editor’s way to post on the Interact Blog when they release the book. Now, this isn’t exactly a conventional review. I think I did a pretty good job of withholding spoilers, but it may seem like *too* good a job to some because I didn’t write much of anything the little summary that’s going to be provided on the Drollerie pages had already said. Of course, where those things would be redundant there, the lack of those things make for holes in the review here. Sorry about that! You’ll be able to read the blurb at Drollerie soon enough, I promise! Without further ado, though, here is what I submitted, and I submit it to you for your general scrutiny and reading pleasure:
There is something delightful and electrifyingly mysterious about picking up a book and reading a story with absolutely no prior expectations. This, in a quirk of contrast, is decidedly not what happened when I opened the Adobe file of Deborah Grabien’s And Then Put Out the Light. I received and then read the story in large part because I found the little information I had of someone else’s opinion of it intriguing, and I read it knowing it had to be mythic fiction (what with it being published by Drollerie Press!). It is therefore safe to say that the poor book was at something of a disadvantage when I started it. I opened the file expecting it to strike me with depth of meaning and myth-world atmosphere from the get-go. To my reading pleasure, it shattered my every expectation.
And Then Put Out the Light drew me from the very beginning into a world and a mind so intensely and intimately real and familiar that it could have been a first-person, diary-style travelogue rather than a third-person piece of fiction. Emily Moon-Bourne, the story’s central character, carries a reader with her through a journey of self-discovery that is as much physical in the beginning as it is internal in the end. It struck me particularly because I share a hometown and a jaw-droppingly similar impromptu romp through Great Britain and France with the fictional heroine, and Emily’s observations were so similar to my own at times that I found myself pining for the bygone days of 2004. Everything that happened for more than the first half of the book seemed so concrete and quintessentially real that I caught myself on several occasions either A) forgetting it was fiction at all or B) fishing for fantasy elements that weren’t actually there. This, of course, was silly of me. What we call the “real world” is a very fertile ground for planting seeds of the supernatural, and though they sprout slowly in this particular story, they sprout beautifully and poignantly.
As for Emily Moon-Bourne’s personal, internal journey, I found it not only to be deeply female, but deeply human in a way that can not be gendered. The character, after an ego-tearing divorce, wrestles with the ghosts and ghouls of her own past and with a self she has segmented and compartmentalized in favor of functioning outwardly in a world that stares and judges. Her emotional state and the money she has acquired through the divorce lead her away from California on a spontaneous and solitary charge to and through Europe. As she travels, she argues with herself in the form of an internal voice she goes so far as to name, and she meets with women who, while being from markedly different cultures and backgrounds, reflect things in herself as much as they do women in her past and women the world over as a collective whole. Gradually, in part due to the effect these women have on her, Emily’s apparent flight from her unfaithful and demeaning ex-husband and the immensity her problems becomes an active search for the true roots of the problems and the answers to questions she has always been too horrified to ask (or in some cases, even consider). These questions rise to the surface as with water forcing itself through the cracks in an old dam: at first trickling, but ultimately threatening to break the dam entirely and flood everything in the figurative valley below. In direct relation to the amount seeping (and eventually gushing) through, Emily notices the materialization of a man on the periphery of her life (who may or may not be physically real) and the subsequently increasing frequency of his appearances. He comes to symbolize the answers she wants and needs, and this once again ties her physical search with things internal.
By my way of thinking, the story of Emily’s journey embodies the damage that is caused when we convince ourselves that what we are and what we deeply and integrally want is somehow inappropriate. We dam the floodwaters of pain and other things we’d rather not accept, and while we’re at it, we also dam worlds of our own potential. The one can not be released without the other, of course, and the story addresses the question of how and whether it is worth it to tear those protective walls down.
In fewer words (and this is a quote directly from Emily’s mouth): “Wow.”
So there you have it! If you want to see me rant extensively about Pygmalion figures and literary allusions in the book, you’ll have to check out the Interact Forums in a month or so, and if you’d like to buy the book, I say go for it! It’ll be worth your time and money, and I’m sure you’ll agree ^_^.