Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

Lucky girl.

We begin with character and a vague characteristic. Not much else to say. The only question this can raise is - if we infer that this girl is lucky because things turned out well despite bad things happening - what bad things happened? Next sentence:

That's what I was told from the first moment I can remember.

There are lots of hints dropped as to why this girl is lucky without coming out and just saying what it is. It's like a guessing game, with each hint readers may or may not come closer to figuring out the back story all by themselves. Then at the end of page 1 it becomes obvious that this girl was adopted from China, or how the narrator words it, salvaged by rich Americans. When you put it like that, yes, this girl is lucky. There are tons of YouTube videos called gothcha clips that show mostly God-fearing White Americans picking up terrified screaming orphans from Chinese orphanages. It's sad really, as most of the kids are abandoned only because they are girls and/or have some physical defect. It makes even me want to go there and adapt a baby, not that that is possible as I'm an unmarried man, and an unmarried man trying to adopt a baby girl can only mean one thing: maniac!

If one is interested in this topic than this will hook. It hooks me. The narrator doesn't seem to think she's so lucky but as the alternative is an unknown, I think, all things considered, she is. But I have a feeling the narrator is about to challenge that assumption.

First thing said:

"Not worth ruining your life."

There's a lot of pathos, drama and moody angst early on in this, which is spread on thick across the pages like frozen peanut butter.

The opening line is only interesting in the greater context of the opening; it can't really stand on its own though, so it fails. But the opening, even though there is no scene and it's mostly telling, it hooks. Sometimes showing is not always the best beginning, so there, you creative writing teachers and experts, take that.

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

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