Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review - Push: A Novel

Push: A Novel I honestly doubt I would have picked this novel up had it not been recommended to me or (as was the case) required as part of a class. While I enjoy "coming of age" stories and stories of overcoming hardship, the overarching themes and situations in this book are off-putting to say the least.

The professor made it very clear that the first chapter (~40 pages) was going to be very difficult to read for a number of reasons. Some students were put off by the spelling which was initially a little strange, but I have fun with "dialect" books with similar spelling or grammar issues, so this didn't bother me much. The vulgarity was definitely over the top and very did make me cringe a bit, but I pushed through it.

What was the hardest for me, and likely for most readers, was the absolute raw and brutal honesty with which the abuse was treated in this novel. Since it's presented in the synopsis and the first few pages, I don't consider it a spoiler to tell you that this is the story of a teenage girl (ironically named "Precious") who has been raped by her father for the majority of her life (seriously...the 'majority' being since toddler-hood). She is now giving birth to her second child/sibling by her father. Her mother is physically, verbally and emotionally abusive as well. They live in a welfare situation where Precious is essentially a slave to her mother's whims.

The first chapter (and additional passages scattered throughout the book) are graphic, raw, and absolutely stunning. I came away from the reading disgusted at 'humanity.'

The writing style is in first person and thus is very closely tied to the main character. The language used is poetically and articulately placed on the page in such a way to make Precious a very vivid character who is very real. Despite her difficulties with language (despite starting the novel in 9th grade with passing grades, she is completely illiterate and likely hasn't learned anything in school ever), the text portrays her emotions and motivations beautifully. The descriptions of the world around her are striking and vivid as well.

This is very much NOT a book for children. The themes involved could be very eye-opening for teenagers, but because of their presentation and the vulgarity and graphic themes, I would not recommend this to young teens...and not even to older teens unless I felt they were sufficiently mature.

Honestly, I have a hard time even recommending this to most adults. There are some that I could confidently recommend it to (social workers, secondary education teachers, etc.). However, to the general population, I would be very nervous to recommend this book because it is so blunt and raw. At the same time, I can't "not" recommend it...or rather, if somebody (with adequate maturity/sensitivities) picked up the book and asked if it was worth reading, my answer is YES.

This is a hard book to get through due to emotional and moral sensitivities. However, it raises some excellent 'action points' to the reader to think about the state of "humanity" and the "system" (welfare, schools, etc).

It's not something I'll read again and again...but it's something that I'll think about for a long time.

4 stars

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