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audrey

holes in my brain

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Ordinary Beauty

Ordinary Beauty - Laura Wiess full review on my blog, holes In My brainOrdinary Beauty is not ordinary by any standards. Neither is Sayre, and she is easily one of the most sympathetic narrators I’ve ever read about. To say she had a troubled childhood is a huge understatement—her mother is a drug and alcohol addict who has never treated Sayre like a child but rather as a burden. As she is let down time and time again by someone who is supposed to care for her, it was honestly a heartbreaking reading experience.It’s always difficult to read such a dark book like this one, but while I found it powerful in many ways, I felt slightly unfulfilled after finishing. My main qualm with the novel is that I wish a lot more happened in the present time, and that's just a personal preference. I would say 70-80% of the novel is a flashback, and while the flashbacks were heartwrenching, I started to lose interest near the end. Why? For me, it felt too expository—too much of a narration. I never felt enough personal growth from Sayre through the turmoil, it seemed like an extremely lengthy step-by-step recount of her life.Granted, this recount is disturbing, eye-opening, and deeply emotional, but when it is told in a “this happened, my mother did this, then I did this” format, I just find my emotional attachment waning. Few characters felt truly three dimensional; I felt that the characters Sayre took comfort in, such as Ms. Mo and Aunt Loretta, were stock characters in a story of abuse. Can I add that I hated the mother? Hated. No sympathy whatsoever, and it takes some pretty significant things to elicit such a response. Sayre Bellavia was a brilliant character though, as the years of neglect mount up she manages to remain true to herself and deal with the mounds of crap in her life.There is much to rave about in Ordinary Beauty, starting from the subject matter. It looked like Wiess didn’t even think twice about tackling with nothing but 110% as she created a carefully twisted and gritty novel about mother-daughter relationships, love, addiction, and hope. The relationship between Sayre and her mother is bound by their family tree, but little else. The simmering resentment is painful to read about, but Wiess really depicted and fleshed out these searing emotions spectacularly. Also, the prose is freaking beautiful. It’s simple but still vivid with descriptions, it’s emotional yet practical, and I could really get a sense of Sayre’s character because of this.3.5/5 – because while I really liked getting invested in such a gutsy book, I had some issues with how things were told. The pacing didn't really work for me this time around (there was too much history) and I did feel let down by most of the characterization. That said, it’s a well-written dark contemporary novel that deals with extremely difficult topics, and I commend the author for never shying away from messy details. Ultimately, I wish there could have been a bit more to the novel, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.