Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book Review: The Sky Isn't Visible from Here

I've just finished reading Felicia C. Sullivan's The Sky Isn't Visible from Here, Scenes from a Life. It's a book that I can imagine re-reading, because it was like sitting down with a good friend and letting the talk and ideas flow. It's not a straightforward memoir--you know the kind. The ones that start with "I was born... where I grew up... vignettes from my childhood... yadda yadda." I don't mind reading that kind of memoir, mind you; but I found this much more enjoyable, as a format.

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that one of my favorite things to do is to sit with a friend (or two or more), a cup of coffee, and some good talk. That's exactly the feeling this book gave me--a series of chats where you gradually learn more and more about each other's lives.

And what a life Felicia has had! Living with a mother who was by turns overprotective and neglectful, with a series of men who were in and out of her life--some attentive, some abusive--Felicia watched her mother go down the spiral of drugs and alcohol. Ashamed of her mother, embarassed by her home life, she tried always to be the "good" girl and learned to protect herself by assuming the manners and lifestyle of the friends who seemed to have the "good" life she so desperately wanted.

But she couldn't keep it up for long, and the stress of trying to maintain the facade made her escape into drugs and drinking almost a foregone conclusion. She wanted so desperately to fit in, to be a different kind of person, and one way to get there was to find friends who would accept her. Didn't matter if they were "coke friends" or drinking buddies--what mattered was being accepted.

As she spiraled downward, she was able to catch herself and work her way back up toward self-acceptance, embracing her past with all its imperfections and horrors and misery, putting her journey down on paper as a way of coming to terms with it. Her writing style is very personal, very intimate, very revealing. She uses the immediacy of the present tense to good effect, making the readers feel as though they are a part of the vignette she's relating, watching the action and yet observing from an interior vantage point. This kind of manipulation of time works well in this context, providing a "now" experience that is lively and active rather than a passive narration.

There were several times while reading this book that I flashed back to episodes of my own life, both as a daughter and as a mother, drawing comparisons and making analogies. To me, this is part of the value of a book like this one, in that it helps one to put one's own life into the context of other lives and other people's experiences. I've had real-life friends who have lived through horrors and traumas, and after reading this book I feel as if Felicia is another one of them.

You can find this book here at Amazon, or at your local independent bookstore. You can also check on Booksense.com if you aren't sure where your local independent is. I love the convenience of online shopping as much--actually, ET probably loves it even more than I do--but I also know that there's no substitute for the "real thing" and that means buying local whenever possible. You can also check out the author's blog here.

Okay, off my soapbox now. I hope you've been inspired to at least look for this book and give it a try. You won't be sorry!


Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you! Your review made my day. The structure is a bit complex, and I'm so delighted that it resonated with you. Thank you for your very wonderful and carefully conceived review - I really appreciate it.

Cheers, Felicia

Sheepish Annie said...

This sounds like a good one! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review!