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[166] My Abandonment – Peter Rock

001Advanced Reader’s Copy
Publication: March 12, 2009 (revised)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“Don’t forget this. Don’t forget that thinking can get in the way. Forget the forgetting. We seek to forget ourselves, to be surprised and to do something without knowing how or why. The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment.” [200]

Thirteen-year-old Caroline is a bright kid who has outsmarted the peers of her age. Her father is a veteran who home-schools her with encyclopedias and books from the library while also imbuing in her a rigid code of behavior that schools, or the society as a whole, fails to teach in an age of moral decadence. The anonymous Father (for security purpose) and daughter have lived in Forest Park, a 5400-acres urban park in Portland, Oregon, taking shelter in a house like a cave dug out with roof made of branches, wire and metal with tarp and plastic on top.

“The latrine, a trench with a bag of lime hidden in the bushes, is further away and we dig a new one every two weeks.” [11]

Granted they have settled down in the dark and lived like aborigines, they are expertise in not drawing any attention by eradicating all vestiges. They dress in camouflage and move from time to time. They are constantly in alert of helicopter and wear a flashlight overhead. They never consider themselves homeless because the live in the wood by choice, escaping the wilderness of the city. Father has a bank account into which he deposits his veteran pension check and holds a P.O. box at the post office. This distinction is salient and is often reinforced:

“The bus station is the saddest place to see. Homeless people are asking for change outside and I wait out there while Father goes in. When he comes out he turns so no one can see and he has bills of money folded thick in his hand.” [140]

As much as Father believes Caroline is growing up to be a healthy young woman and that she outsmarts the other kids, she is not a well-rounded kid. Paranoia at times exerts a grip on her. And the Father is a fool who fails to perceive how out-of-sync he is, and how it affects his daughter. Maybe his pride and stubbornness are what drain my sympathy for them as they drift from place to place, despite the tenderness in their relationship. His flaw, which dooms him later, is the naiveté, the ignorance as a result of his being isolated from the society and failing to recognize evil in his face. The issue is no longer about conforming to the society’s rules and expectations, nor is about morality. It’s plain survival, which he fails. His refusal to conform has deprived of common sense altogether. His good intentions and love have seriously gone wrong.

My Abandonment is based on a true story of people who choose to renounce societal tie, and who find themselves at home amidst wilderness, who dream in the direction in which keeping sweetness of one’s solitude has a miserable impact on the quality of life. Despite the tenderness and poignancy with which it is written, the book has a flaw in establishing connection between events before and after the flight from city to wilderness. The mention of some foster family is vague and confusing. The tantalizing story that opening has promised never delivers. This novel doesn’t rank high in priority if one is looking for a gripping storyline. It’s bland like a cup of lukewarm water.

Some New Crushes

The Sunday Salon.com

Advance Reader’s Copy
Publication: March 1, 2009
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Told with great tenderness, My Abandonment is the story of 13-year-old Caroline and her father who have lived for four years on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, in a forested park. To avoid attention, which might risk their being discovered by the police, they have moved thrice and wear camouflage clothing. It’s a strange novel (based on a true story) that reads like an allegory.

“Our house is like a cave dug out with the roof made of branches and wire and metal with tarp and plastic on top of that and then the earth where everything is growing. Only Father and I see it’s a home.” [12]

Tuesday in Silhouette has posted a very thoughtful review of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, a what she calls a very Austenian book that reflects on the cold brutality of relationship in life. So can love and happiness really go together? Or what if your love for someone can’t translate into a lifelong bondage? Another one that catches my attention is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This National Book Award-winning novel, set in final days of the Civil War, tells two parallel stories: that of Inman, a wounded soldier who is engaged in a Homeric journey to get back to his love Ada; and that of Ada, who is struggling to maintain her farm. The strength of this novel is Frazier’s prose, which recreates a time, place, and mood like few other novels set in the past.