If you follow my blog regularly, Lauren Carter’s name might sound familiar. I read and reviewed her first novel Swarm when my blog was just a baby, and more recently wrote about her poetry book, Following Sea.
This Has Nothing To Do With You was just launched on the 22nd of October, and it would be a terrible thing for it to get lost in the midst of all the prize-list mayhem.
The day after her northern Ontario High School graduation, Mel and her older brother Matt learn that their father has been killed and that their mother is the one who did it. And just like that, all their grand plans for the future are derailed and their lives sent into a whirlwind of grief, guilt, and confusion.
I couldn’t have known what would be waiting when I woke up, that I’d spent the night on the rapidly diminishing surface of my childhood, that last patch of solid ground.
Mel remembers the way her parents tolerated each other, how her father was not really present. She remembers her mother’s anger and depression, and how she told Mel that this had nothing to do with her. (“The crevice, so deep, so close to my feet, had nothing to do with me.”)
But how could it not?
For the next two years, Mel leaves her brother while she drifts from place to place, trying to forget about her past.
Sometimes the past is like a wide, soft marsh that looks deceptively solid, but with every step water floods your insoles, soaks through the skin of your shoes, and the sensation of sinking shakes your solid footing.
When Mel finally comes home it is to a brother so changed he is unrecognizable. She’s desperate to re-gain their closeness, but is at a loss as to what to do.
“I don’t know how I can help.” / “It’s simple,” Matt says. “Don’t turn away.”
In an effort to get her own life together, she adopts Grommet, a dog whose traumatic past matches her own. Now, in addition to her own struggles, she has to learn how to handle Grommet’s problematic behaviours (growling, biting, tearing her apartment to shreds every day while she’s at work).
The ties binding me to an ordinary life had snapped but still hung there, frayed and awkward. I wasn’t sure where to attach them.
This Has Nothing To Do With You is filled with a compelling cast of characters, all helping to create a sophisticated framework for a story about trauma, empathy, and responsibility. In an interview at Turning Pages, Lauren Carter talks about the challenge her book is offering up to its readers – do the stories we read have anything to do with us?
A favourite line: “My fingernails, painted black like Lara’s, were bitten right down. I wondered how much polish I’d ingested over the years, if flakes of salmon pink, neon green, midnight black were cluttering up the soft walls of my intestines.”
I love this book and highly recommend it. And if you’re a dog lover, even more reason to read it – Grommet is such a great character.
Two weeks to go before I have to move out, and no new place in sight. The coffee gurgles in my kitchen the next morning as I flip through the newspaper again, hunting for ads I might not have noticed, one that says, ‘Destructive, anxious, incurable dogs welcome!’
My interview with Lauren Carter about her book Swarm.
This Has Nothing To Do With You is on The Buzz at The 49th Shelf: 5 New Books With Great Reviews
Check out the Mixtape for This Has Nothing To Do With You!
Thank you to Freehand Books and Lauren Carter for sending me a copy of this book!
18 thoughts on “This Has Nothing To Do With You by Lauren Carter”
This sounds excellent. It’s such a complex topic to undertake but it sounds really successful. I really like the line about nail polish!
There was just something about that line…
There are lots of books out there about trauma and grief, but this one has a fresh take on it. And the dog is such a great part of the story!
That marsh quote is both wrenching and beautiful.
I do love poet novelists!
Me, too. They’re very careful with their words.
The dog does sound like a terrific character! What a heart-wrenching situation.
I don’t know which is more heart-wrenching… the main storyline or the one about the dog!
Always such a shocking crime: it robs the children of both their parents…
One of the interesting parts of the book is the remaining relationship between Matt, Mel, and their mother. Is it possible to ever understand something like that?
A line that gave me some thought: “We’re so much more than the worst thing we ever did.”
I guess a lot would depend on the attitude of the children to the father. If he was much loved, it would be harder to forgive.
I taught a child once, whose gravely disturbed father tried to blackmail authorities into paying him compensation for some grievance, by holding kindergarten children hostage with a tin of petrol. (I won’t go into details). He was arrested, tried convicted and given a very long sentence, of course, and the boy was taken into state care because his mother was in no state to look after him. After a while he came back to school, and the social workers were keen for him to visit his father in gaol. He had very conflicted feelings, because his whole life was ruined by what his father had done, and he was never really convinced by the argument that you can love someone even if you hate what they have done. He was only 12, and I think that hating his father was his way of trying to make his way back into a peer group that had rejected him.
That’s such an interesting story – thanks for sharing it. And so sad. It really makes you think about the different perspectives of the situation. It’s hard to know even what the right thing is to do. Maybe there is no right thing…
Sounds like a terrific book – and I was considering adding it to my TBR list until I came to your closing line. Now I’m just going to reserve it at the library and bypass the TBR. 🙂
I’m so glad! 🙂
Oops – just checked. It’s too new and no one has it, even in ‘processing’. I guess it goes on the TBR after all – but with a star!
Oh no. Still no sign of it? I might have to make a “suggestion for purchase”. 😉
Now you’ve given me something new to worry about – how much nail polish is clogging up my digestive system !
There are so many books around that have a theme of dealing with grief and loss but the extract you included about wading through the marsh makes me think this book is better than most
I agree – it makes it hard to know which ones stand out. This one felt fresh to me, and Grommet as a character is a huge plus!
Haha – That quote made me think of my daughters’ digestive systems! (I have never really bothered with nail polish.)