Just finished reading Louise: Amended, by Louise Krug (Black Balloon 2012). It is ostensibly about the author/protagonist's transformation from glamor girl to sadder, wiser neurological patient - due to the necessity to excise a "cavernous angioma" from the pons of her brain stem. But it's at least as much about all the other people in her life - the boyfriend, the parents, the step-parents, friends, brothers, etc. - about their reactions to having a loved one with a serious, debilitating illness, and what those reactions say about and do to their respective characters. By switching back and forth from first to (omniscient) third person, Krug can get inside their heads - and face what they were facing without (herself) flinching. This part is almost scarier than when she looks in the mirror with a half-paralyzed face. You might occasionally flinch, though, as a reader - the prose is spare, straightforward, colloquial, and doesn't pull any punches. Even her own thoughts at the time of her treatments are related in matter-of-fact style - perhaps the trace of having started a career in journalism in a previous life.
"When the bandages are unwound from my head it takes a long time to get to the end. The unwinding happens in circles, and it takes so long I worry that my face will come off, too."
This book feels like it has undergone multiple surgeries, too. Many of the chapters are composed of related, sutured-together vignettes, some of which switch point of view from one person to another. But I suspect it has also had a few "prose removal" operations; the writing is (to change the metaphor) sculptural, almost. Not many adjectives or scene-settings - and when there are, it's done via a single quirky detail in the periphery. And Krug uses the chapter as a unit of composition. Here, for instance, is Chapter Twelve:
"Warner and Janet email.
"The emails begin with 'Hi' and 'Dear.' They end with 'Best.'
"One thing about the trouble with their daughter: It has made them want to be kind."
End of chapter - with all the ambiguity of that last sentence left hanging for the next. Some chapters are longer, of course, but every single sentence is necessary, smart, and sometimes funny. Louise: Amended is a unique, kinetic, & finely-polished book that will be the envy of any of us who have ever tried to tell a life story.
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