Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

This one gets 7.5 out of 9 stars... if we base it on the total number of attendees at Book Club tonight who liked it vs. not. The half star is someone who was a bit agnostic, who couldn't quite condone the parental guidance.

It's easy to connect with the story because it is so well told.

The cover photo of this book almost says as much about Bobo as the pages within. She looks ready for either a good fight or a good laugh, it could go either way. Ready to take on the world. Rough and tumble. In your face. Finding her voice.

There are great photos throughout the book, including one that shows the toddler loading a gun. Any of them would have made a great cover but I'm glad this is the one that was chosen. Bobo actually looks a lot like my sister in this photo, at that age.

I loved the book. The language is plain, poetic, brash. The memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family, but also a dysfunctional country, is told through the eyes of a young child, non-judgmental and highly observant, with a flair for the dramatic.

The opening lines perfectly set the stage and introduce the characters:

Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."

They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping."

"Why not?"

"We might shoot you."


"By mistake." 

Fuller says she was influenced by Michael Ondaatje's memoir, Running in the Family, where he lovingly tells the story of deeply flawed people. I'm not so certain Fuller's telling is entirely loving, for the scenes she chooses to share of her mother paint a bigoted, self-centred manic-depressive drunk. A well-bred one though, who reads Shakespeare to her children in the womb. With her many flaws, the mother is amazingly resilient. She braves the deaths of three of her children, runs a farm with an absent husband (who is away at war much of the time), and brings up her girls in a dangerous world. Mum had strong literary ambitions for her daughters, wanting them to write, but not surprisingly wasn't particularly happy when her daughter's memoir was published in 2003.

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