My first book review for this blog! I found Losing Clementine, by Ashley Ream, fascinating, and had intended to write the review last week during National Suicide Prevention Week. Of course, really, we should try to prevent suicide every week of every year. Is this a novel about suicide? Well, looking at the cover, one would certainly assume so. And how depressing is that?
I'm going to back up just a bit. I first heard about Ashley Ream and her debut novel at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day. I attended her discussion with Meg Howrey about "Artist's Struggles". Truth? I was volunteering at the festival, and between shifts. Looking at the schedule, I decided I would head over to Eddie's Attic, primarily because I just wanted to see the venue, and hadn't ever been there.
With that out of the way, I was really impressed with Ashley. Smart and funny, she explained to the audience how she wrote a funny suicide book. What? She admitted that she didn't really come totally clean with anyone about the subject, because they might just think she was crazy. Suicide just can't be funny.
So did she? Write a funny suicide book? Not exactly. What she does is write a book about Clementine, an artist that has been dealing with a mental illness her entire adult life and she's done. Just kind of tired of the whole thing. The meds, the therapists, everything. She sets a deadline, 30 days, and the chapters count down the days. There are some funny parts. Some of them are funny "ha ha" and some of them are funny "quirky". Or funny "did that really just happen? what was she thinking?"
Isn't that what happens in life? Even during the most serious times, when you think you can't possibly find anything funny, that you will never laugh again, you find yourself in situations that can be just laugh out loud hilarious! And that's just it. You go in, thinking you're reading a book about Clementine counting down the days until she kills herself, and what she goes about doing to get ready for that moment. What you discover is you get that, but so much more. As Clementine ties up the loose ends of her life, she learns more about everyone around her than she ever expected.
Taking off the the blinders that give us day to day tunnel vision is something we could all benefit in doing. With, of course, long, healthy lives.
And you know those reading group questions that show up in the back of novels these days? For book groups that can't think up their own discussion topics, I guess? Ashley let us know that she wrote her own. Meg (the other author) didn't, so it's not an across the board thing, but I thought it was interesting.
Bottom line is that, in spite of a morbid and heartbreaking subject haunting each day (chapter) of the book, you will find yourself falling in love with Clementine. You won't be able to put it down, because you'll definitely want to find out how it ends.