October 16, 2011
Shadow Tag by Louise Eldrich
Irene America and her husband Gil have been an iconic couple for quite so time. Gil is a painter and has become famous off of painting Irene in various posings, some quite ugly and shocking, and some beautiful and demure. They have three kids who are all pretty unique themselves but each with their own problems as a result of their parents crumbling marriage. To put it bluntly, Gil is an abuser, and Irene an alcoholic. Irene wants out of the marriage but can never seem to quite get away from Gil. She even tries through her diaries. After finding out Gil was reading her red diary, she starts putting in untruths to drive him crazy and writing the real information in the blue diary, which she keeps in a safe deposit box. But even this isn't enough to completely destroy the relationship, Gil just won't let her go.
These characters were haunting. Gil especially. He is the perfect portrayal of a mostly emotional, sometimes verbally and physically abusive person. He also has a tendency to be narcissistic as well, which really escalates. Having had experience with an abuser I was shocked at how well the author got all the little signs right, the things said, things done, the emotional yoyo he kept his family on, that I had to look her up and discovered the Erdrich had personal experience to draw from when writing his character. Irene, despite being abused, wasn't a very easy character to like though because of the diaries and her alcoholism. But even when she didn't have alcohol she still couldn't get herself away from Gil, which is sadly realistic of these types of relationships. The children were also very interesting and sad at the same time.
This is not a cheery novel. It probably won't make you cry but it has a very depressive theme. Its beautifully written although I honestly think the part about the diaries, while quite a large bit of writing, didn't really do as much for me as the 3rd person narrative did. I also wasn't a big fan of the ending. There are some descriptive scenes about sex, rape, and other disturbing things in this book so those reading it should be advised. Its a very realistic book, and could be written from life probably.
It never ceases to astound me what human beings can do to each other, even if they claimed to be in love before. This book is definitely one to read, but one to be careful while reading as well because of its heavy themes.