And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks
Expected Publication: February 11, 2020 by Liveright
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Synopsis: Exciting fans of such writers as Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Carmen Maria Machado with prose that shimmers and stings, Amber Sparks holds a singular role in the canon of the weird. Now, she reaches new, uncanny heights with And I Do Not Forgive You. In “Mildly Happy, With Moments of Joy,” a friend is ghosted by a simple text message; in “Everyone’s a Winner at Meadow Park,” a teen precariously coming of age in a trailer park befriends an actual ghost. At once humorous and unapologetically fierce, these stories shine an interrogating light on the adage that “history likes to lie about women”— as the subjects of “A Short and Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife” and “You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women” (it’s true, you won’t) will attest. Blending fairy tales and myths with apocalyptic technologies, all tethered intricately by shades of rage, And I Do Not Forgive You offers a mosaic of an all-too-real world that fails to listen to its silenced goddesses.
Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley!***
The best thing that I can say about this book was that it was forgettable. The worst thing I can say about this book was that it is forgettable and pointless. The short version of this review is that these aren’t actual short stories. They are pieces of stories. Not a single one of them actually has an ending. They end, but they don’t have an ending. Even the one story that I liked just….ended with no resolution. And several of them were three paragraphs long and left me wondering what the point of even reading it was.
Add in the rampant, militant feminism that every male in the stories is a bad man, hurting women and doing terrible things and every woman needs to be avenged for the collective sins of men and I just couldn’t bear this book at all.
WARNING: Spoilers from here on out.
The one story that I enjoyed was about a couple who can’t stop thinking about the great amount of noise their upstairs neighbors make in the middle of the night. Are they moving bodies up there? Do they own ten Great Danes? Teach midnight tap dancing? Everyone who has had upstairs neighbors knows this feeling. So it was very relatable and fun. But then it was just over. The male of the couple goes upstairs to confront the neighbors about the noise and she just keeps waiting for him to come back, the end. Very abrupt and ended right in the middle of the resolution. This made it so forgettable that it took me ten minutes to remember the premise of this story when I sat down to write this review.
There were also some fact problems with this book. For example, the story about the Sabine women. I am familiar with the story and I am familiar with the varying interpretations of the story over the years. Basically soldiers from Rome invade the city of Sabine killing all the men and taking the women as war trophies to rape and force into marriage. It was a fine story but when the Roman soldiers invade Sabine the women cry out to the goddess Demeter for assistance. Why? Demeter is a fierce goddess to be sure and a great defender of women, but she’s also a Greek goddess. Five minutes on Google will tell you that Sabine was part of the Roman empire in, what is now, Italy. So why would they be crying out in anguish for a Greek goddess’ assistance? That made zero sense and took away from the story.
Also, none of the women actually have to take responsibility for their actions in these stories. Men are bad and women cannot have freedom or happiness until men are eradicated from the world. That’s the main premise of every story in the book. Even when you are living with someone who is obviously mentally ill, has proclaimed themselves a messiah and is planning a massive murder/suicide plot….just blame him for your decision to stay with him and complain that he just abandoned you for his delusions. Don’t try to intervene to get him help or anything, let him go along with his plan but bitch about it every step of the way because obviously he’s the bad guy. Where’s the accountability? Where’s the compassion to try and get someone who you love the help that they obviously need? No, he’s obviously the bad guy and the poor woman doesn’t have to take any accountability for her choices. This is just one example out of many.
Some of the stories even stretch plausibility to the breaking point to make men the bad guy. At one point a girl just randomly happens on the janitor from school abducting her friend and fights to free her. It didn’t fit the story at all and was so unexpected that I just couldn’t get there. I almost thought about abandoning the book at that point because it was nonsensical and only happened to make janitor guy a monster. Or the story about a historical woman who helped her husband achieve greatness while remaining in the darkness herself, despite being more accomplished. This should have been a fascinating story to tell. But instead we got two women joking over text messages about how religion is ridiculous and men are stupid. With almost those exact childish words. Really? I’m supposed to take these women seriously when you paint them as immature children?
At the end of the day I will have forgotten about this book by tomorrow because it was just that pointless.
2 thoughts on “Review: And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks”
I’m not a fan of the ambiguous ending, such as having the man go upstairs to complain – and no resolution. Some readers prefer deciding what happened in the story, but I think that decision is up to the writer. The two camps will have to agree to disagree, because there is no resolving this problem. Either you do or you don’t. I have disliked a bunch of books for this, including Flowers in the Attic and The Lovely Bones (which might not have been ambiguous, but more of an ending I disliked…
On the other hand, I don’t like the ending to Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, but it is not at all ambiguous, so it’s not the dislike per se.
After all that writing and reading, I expect to live a life I wouldn’t have otherwise, and to learn something from it. I don’t enjoy it when my guide to that life fizzles just when I’ve invested all that time!
I do like a review that tells me why the reviewer is unhappy. With supporting data.
I think there’s a fine line in an ending being ambiguous versus vague. For instance, I found Flowers in the Attic and The Lovely Bones very good endings. Ambiguous yes, but I feel the writer gave you enough to form a conclusion and that was satisfying. Obviously this is a reader preference as many people hate it as ones who liked it.
But there does come a point when you’re being so ambiguous that the reader can’t possibly form a logical conclusion and I feel that’s where this book went wrong. A man goes upstairs where a bunch of noise and potential screaming is coming from, woman waits…end. Well, how long did she wait? Was there any additional noise? Did she hear voices perhaps? Give me some tiny shred of information so that I can use my imagination from there. Plenty of people seem to like this book so I suppose it just wasn’t for me.