Before I get to the book, can I talk about the weather again for a minute? Two days ago I was in warm Cancun. Last night I walked home in the blinding snow (pictured to the left). Karma for bragging about my fun vacation? Perhaps.
Now onto A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That by Lisa Glatt. In this novel, Rachel Sparks’ mom is dying of breast cancer. That much is clear from the beginning. Rachel has moved into her mom’s apartment to help her, but also because Rachel is a thirtysomething poetry professor with limited funds and an even more limited ability to cope with this tragedy. So what she does instead of coping is sleep with men and plenty of them. Most are flawed, but then again so is she. And none seem to fill the void.
The novel also focuses on an array of other people somehow connected to Rachel. There’s her student Ella, whose husband has just cheated on her in the first year of their marriage. Then there’s Georgia, Ella’s teenage patient at the women’s clinic who frequently comes in with STDs. And we also hear from Angela, Rachel’s friend with allergy troubles as well as boy troubles. The point of view switches between these characters and their perspectives. However, Rachel is the emotional heart of this story and her perspective was the only one I really cared about. While the supporting characters were all compelling, during their chapters I just wanted to get back to Rachel.
The real skill in Lisa Glatt’s writing was her ability to keep the story from becoming too melodramatic most of the time. Yes, it’s unbelievably sad and yes, Rachel can’t let go, but there are moments of wit and vibrators and drunken antics. Rachel’s mom in particular keeps the mood upbeat, lecturing Rachel about her life choices and finding love during a chemotherapy session.
A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That comes through with interesting and complex women trying to deal with the challenges life has thrown at them. And, as a reader, it helped to know the tragedy that was facing me from the beginning. It was like watching Titanic. I know the ship is going to sink, but I still get sucked into the story.