Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Monday, June 22, 2015

concrete Angel by Patricia Abbot a review

This book begins with a bang, literally as Eve Moran unloads her gun into a man whose name is either Joey or Jimmy or Jerry--she can't quite remember. And if she did remember, she wouldn't care. Because Eve only cares about herself.

If you know Patricia Abbott’s short stories, you’ve been waiting a long time for her debut as a novelist. If you’re new to her work, you’re in for a treat. This mother/daughter tale is filled with sharp observation and lethal detail that underlines the family dysfunction (with a capital D) with economy and grace. One paragraph, early on, tells us everything we need to know about narcissistic Eve Moran and how little she cares for anyone else in her life, including her daughter: 

She invited him up to her apartment where she served him stuffed figs, cocktail nuts, dates, and several dry martinis before taking him to bed. She’d given up cooking for men after a nasty episode a few years earlier, but kept prepared foods such as these on hand for potential guests— items looking attractive in a cut-glass bowl. We often made a Sunday dinner of the leftovers if they didn’t disappear on Saturday night.

We see all too clearly the damage Mona is wreaking in her daughter’s life, even though Christine is too young to understand just how masterfully and completely she is being manipulated. But even though she’s blind to how her mother operates, Christine sees how the world works, and her point of view is clear-eyed and unsentimental, rather like Mattie Ross in Charles Portis’ novel TRUE GRIT (or Addie Pray in David Brown’s ADDIE PRAY, aka PAPER MOON). And though there’s something her father said to her mother in the heat of the divorce proceedings, something Christine can’t quite wrap her head around, the meaning is clear to us and explains so so much about Eve and why her 12-year-old daughter believes that “Saving Mother” is her special skill-set.

This is a story about lies and deceptions and what happens when all those lies come home to roost. Eve is a fantastic character, a moral chameleon whose capacity for self-delusion is even bigger than her thirst for instant gratification. CONCRETE ANGEL is a hard-boiled delight for people who like character-driven stories.

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