Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Promised World - Lisa Tucker

Lila's entire world revolves around her twin brother Billy. Despite her marriage, and her prestigious university professorship, she worships her brother and struggles mightily for his approval. She defers to his opinions, is blinded to his faults, and relies on him to remind her of a past she simply cannot remember. Then Billy takes his own life, leaving behind his estranged wife and their three children. Suddenly, Lila's world unravels and her connection between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly tenuous. While her husband Patrick tries to understand what is going on, he delves deeper into Lila's past uncovering lies about her parenthood and discovering that her inability to remember is the result of tremendous trauma and manipulation by those closest to her. The book is told from the perspective of the various characters - and through Billy's wife and children, we learn that while imaginative and doting, Billy was also marked by mood swings and indecipherable musings. His desire to raise his children in the safe environment he never had seems noble, until his fears of a family curse and need to cleanse himself of his evilness hint at a much greater mental illness. As the secrets about Lila and Billy's past come crashing down, the book takes on a frenzied pace - Lila's memories come back in confusing snapshots - she remembers partial scenes and snippets of conversation, there is a difficulty in untangling reality from what she was told to believe and by whom. The same confusion has been visited by Billy upon his own children who want to preserve his memory and make him proud, but end up hurting and trusting the wrong people along the way. I felt like Tucker tried to take on too much with this book in terms of themes and conflict, but at the same time took too long getting to the heart of the story that by about half-way through I was exhausted with the characters. While the subject matter certainly interested me, the end left too many questions and frustrations on the table.

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