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!