Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Myth of You and Me, by Leah Stewart

Looking for a great summer read? I got lost in "The Myth of You and Me," in that great let-me-just-finish-this-chapter before I make dinner way.

The older I get, the more I see how the meaning of the stories of our lives influences the paths our lives take. In "The Myth of You and Me" Leah Stewart looks at big issues -- forgiveness, love and family -- within the context of the relationship between two girls, and the stories they tell themselves about their lives. Cameron and Sonia meet in high school. Cameron is an army brat, now on her sixth move and still trying to find something that feels like home, and Sonia is a young girl trying to navigate the danger and despair of living with an explosive, mentally ill mother while struggling with a learning disorder that renders all numbers complete gibberish. In the closeness of their bff-type friendship, the girls become each other's life rafts. Until, one day, suddenly they're not and we are left to wonder what happened.
Stewart begins the story near the end, a great story structuring device, with Cameron as a directionless young adult. Her recently deceased elderly employer posthumously instructs her to find her estranged friend, Sonia, and deliver a package. Thus, Stewart sets us up for the suspense of finding out what will happen in the course of Cameron's quest, and what secrets will be revealed along the way.

One of Stewart's strong suits is the development of her characters; they are so layered, so mired in their own sh*t, that they ring true. Within the framework of the story of these girls, and their struggles through life, Stewart guides us through a big, complicated relationship. We see what each girl/woman gets out of her relationship with the other, and what they do to hurt each other along the way. We see why they do what they do, and the stories they tell themselves about what has happened. I loved how Stewart revealed how each of the characters' backgrounds framed how they interpreted these things, and how this interpretation determined the meaning they assigned to the story, and how, ultimately, this determined what they did next.

Honestly, the very end -- and I will not spoil it for you -- felt a teeny bit far-fetched, but Stewart's story was one so lovely and eloquently rendered that I didn't mind.

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