Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alice's Review: Driving with Dead People

Driving with Dead People: A Memoir
Summary: Death lurks everywhere in Holloway's childhood. A neighbor boy accidentally shoots and kills a train conductor; a little girl is mowed down by a motorist. Her father's main hobby is filming grisly car wrecks and natural disasters, and her best friend's family runs the town mortuary. Observing the dead in their coffins, Monica wonders: would she be better off in a casket than alive in her parents' home? In this memoir, Holloway (an actress turned writer) tackles the horrifyingly familiar story of father/daughter incest: the secrecy that surrounds it and the ways it corrodes families from the inside out. Even though her memories of the abuse were repressed, evidence cropped up everywhere, from her chronic bed-wetting and compulsive lying as a girl to her adult attraction to abusive men; when her older sister, JoAnn, comes forward with her recollections, Holloway begins to remember her own trauma. As a writer, Holloway might not be in Mary Karr's league, but her blunt sentences deliver the unvarnished truth. In coming to terms with her tragedy, Holloway writes, "Knowing there is no cavalry is much better than hoping for a cavalry that never comes." Her memoir sings with the power of a disenfranchised woman finally finding her own voice, and her brutal memoir is hard to forget. (Publisher’s Weekly)

Review: When I first picked up Driving with Dead People: A Memoir, I was expecting a comedic tale about two friends working at a funeral home. Man, that is so not what this book is all about. This memoir covers Monica Holloway’s life beginning when she was about four years old until she was 43. She writes about what happened in her daily life, growing up with a father who was violent and a mother who was in denial. With parents like that, it’s no wonder Ms. Holloway and her siblings grew up with a certain amount of dysfunction. Oh, and did I mention that she was totally obsessed with the death of a nine year old local girl?

One of the reasons I like memoirs is because it’s the truth as the writer knows it. Is it what really happened? I don’t know. What I do know is it’s what Ms. Holloway believes. She was very inspiring to me from the beginning. I’m amazed at how a person has the strength to overcome something as debilitating as abuse, be it mental, physical or sexual. I don’t know how they get up each and every day and deal with it. How they resist the urge to crawl up in a little ball, buried under the cover and actually get out of bed and face whatever comes to them that day. And that’s exactly what she does. She finds ways to escape, to cope. The most awe-inspiring thing about her is that in spite of how insignificant her parents make her feel, she doesn’t believe it. She may have her doubts, but she’s a fighter.

There are many good quotes in the memoir. Here are some of my favorites:

“The outside now matched the inside – damaged beyond all repair.” Without getting too much into my past, this line affected me the most. It’s one thing to have physical signs of abuse, but it’s quite another to carry it all on the inside where no one knows about it but you and your abuser. I think she explains it best with the following quote:

“I wish there had been obvious signs of destruction on all of us kids: bruises or burn marks, something that indicated how violent our house was, but words and neglect don’t leave visible marks. And that confuses even the person who knows better.”

She had her struggles too, as you can see from this brutally honest quote:

“My whole life, I wanted to be dead, but I didn’t actually do anything about it. I guess I didn’t want to be dead: I wanted relief. I wanted to be happy and peaceful.”

Finally, I think she sums it up nicely with this:

“I would work on trying to forgive myself, and I would ask others for forgiveness too.”

I recommend this book to anyone as a study of resiliency. It doesn’t matter if you were personally touched by abuse in your past. Everyone can learn a little something from this, even if it’s just how to forgive and find your peace.

Final Take: 3/5



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