"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

She by Michelle Latiolais is our pick for July Soup of the Month!

Ok, I admit it. I picked up Michelle Latiolais's She originally just because I liked the cover. I have an affinity for palm trees, for street signs, and for all things LA. And to me, the cover of this book screamed LA. So yes. I do that thing you're not supposed to do: I judge books by their covers. But with this one, I'm sure glad I did.

After reading She twice, I can say that I like the cover even more. It is as if you are seeing the world through the main characters eyes. The girl who is mostly referred to throughout the book as She (a reminder to all of us writers that sometimes the most simple possible title is the best possible title) is a fifteen year old who ran away from the home where she was badly abused. She ran to, of course, the city so many of us run to: Los Angeles. When I came here I may have been twenty-five and not fifteen, but I was certainly still running away from something. The palm tree, the street sign, and the shockingly blue sky on this book's cover paint a scene not unlike the one She saw upon her arrival in the fictional (though stunningly realistic) city of Los Angeles, CA. 

She meets all kinds of different people along her journey. Some who are there to help her along, some with selfish and rotten intentions. Some who painfully remind her of her dysfunctional family members, and some who teach her that not everyone out there will. The girl in this story is young, but you need not be to enjoy this book. In fact I think it's better enjoyed when one is decades away from fifteen so that reading this will aid in looking back and saying "Ahh, yes, I remember what that felt like" and thanking your lucky stars that you don't feel that way anymore. 

The word 'fiction' on the cover is true: this is not a memoir or a biography. It is not a true story. But to me, it's not quite a novel either. Nor is it short stories. It is written in a form entirely new to me, actually: a series of stories that tell a story when read in chronological order, but can stand alone on their own just as well. When I pick up the book and open to a random page and read that page, it is a different experience than if I were to do that with your every day novel. It's like reading long-form poetry, every word and every sentence singing its own heartbreaking song that together make up a damn beautiful album. 

Latiolais's characters are raw and relatable, and at times funny. This gritty and honest coming of age story is so much more than that. It is an anthem for men and women, the old and the young alike. Love it or hate it, Los Angeles as a state of mind shines brightly through every poetic line, letting us know that your geographical location may not be everything, but it will dictate certain details of your life no matter how hard you fight it. She is not just about a city though, it is about the institution of family, the idea that running away from where you came from doesn't mean you didn't come from there in the first place. It's about learning not to blame your parents for how messed up your head is, and giving trust to complete strangers - though that doesn't mean they'll ever stop being strange. 

I absolutely devoured this book, and it is one that I am certain I will again and again. 

- Molly Ash, Book Soup Newsstand Coordinator

Michelle Latiolais will join us for a reading group discussion of She on Sunday, July 30th at 12pm. You can order a copy of the book HERE

No comments: