Saturday, June 22, 2013
My take on: A Trick of The Light
In just a few short chapters of A Trick of The Light, author Lois Metzger pulls you into the tortured mind of 15-year-old Mike Welles.
Mike always does the right things. He gets good grades. He plays on his high school baseball team. He has a great relationship with his best friend Tamio. He has a crush on the new girl Valerie. It sounds like he has all his ducks in a row, but he doesn't. His home life isn't so neat and orderly. His mom, who makes a living as a professional organizer, is a woman in transition. She spends more time at home in bed than working with her clients. When Mike's dad isn't at work, he's spending his time at the gym or locked in his office at home. Mike tries his best to get some control at home, but it isn't easy. Any attempt Mike makes at father-son bonding time is rebuffed. His mother would rather wallow in her own sorrow. No one at home is paying any attention to Mike. No one except that little voice in his head. That voice is constantly talking to Mike. That voice wants him to take action. That voice wants him to do something extreme. If he listens to that voice, what are the consequences?
To talk about this book further, I have to reveal a major plot point. You can call it a spoiler, but I disagree. The actual narrator of this book isn't Mike, it's anorexia. Mike is struggling to ignore that voice, but anorexia can and will take over. It took me a few chapters to understand who or what was narrating the book. I think this a rather unique way to bring light to a rarely told story. I've seen plenty of television and print stories discussing eating disorders, but 99 percent of time they were about women. It's refreshing to read a different perspective on such a complex health issue.
In this book, anorexia is very strong. Mike did all he could to ignore anorexia, but his parents' impending divorce was the final breaking point. Amber, the strange girl at school, has all the answers for Mike. She knows what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, how to hide food, and how to deceive not just the doctors but his own parents.
"Mike goes to the mirror. He feels better. He can see muscle and taut skin. He thinks about his body, the structure of it, how each part is splendidly connected to the next; it is a work of art, like sculpture; it possesses power and energy. Your mind is soaring!" Pg. 80
What he sees in the mirror and what is reality are two different things. A once healthy kid turns into a moody rail-thin kid. Is the person he used to be gone forever? You begin to wonder. Everything about Amber and anorexia that was once strange suddenly makes sense. Exercising to the point of exhaustion makes sense. Eating five bites at dinner and hiding the rest makes sense. Lying to his family and friends makes sense. There's nothing wrong with him. Everyone else has a problem. Anorexia was right. Anorexia is making him feel better and happier than ever before.
The book does an excellent job of portraying how a disease can completely control a person. Mike is young and impressionable. Who does he listen to? His friends? His parents? Anorexia? Anorexia wants control of not just his body, but his mind. It's a powerful story, told in just a scant 189 pages. I actually wish it were longer. I don't think Mike's story is finished. There has to be more to the story. Overall, this a frightening and brutally honest portrayal of a devastating illness.
Note: I received a copy of the book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.