More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss is a difficult read on two levels: the rhythm and language is just a bit off somehow, and it's about a family where the mother is suspected of Munchhausen by proxy. That topic is more real to me today than it was a few years ago, making the book more believable and sad. There's this guy that I went to church with, and had a giant crush on in like eighth grade when he was like a senior in high school, ended up marrying this girl who had it. She was caught on tape injecting their daughter with feces. I was horrified when I saw that on the news, and even more shocked when I realized I knew the husband. He's a nice, normal person with a good family and an upper-middle class upbringing. You would never expect that to happen to him.
Anyway, the other reason why it was difficult to read is that there was just something odd about the rhythm of the language, and the changing of the narrators. I kept getting thrown out of the story. It's like it kept reminding me that I was reading, not experiencing, so it was harder to stay connected. A little over halfway through I either adjusted or he changed the style some. From then on, I read really quickly and ended up really enjoying it. I think because I enjoyed Chang and Eng so much I expected to love this one right from the start, but it's like they were written by two different people.
I did really like the character of Darlene Stokes, the doctor who suspects Munchhausen by proxy. She seemed real, and I identified with her even though we don't have much in common. Because I identified so strongly with her though, I think it made me like Josh and Dori, the parents of the sick child, even less. I also didn't like the element of the story told through Darlene's father. It was just distracting to me.
Here are some things I did like though:
"She hadn't foreseen the loneliness of the young scholar at an American university, however. Bookishness, hardheaded intellectualism, an affection for time-consuming study, the very qualities for which she'd thought she would've been, at last, rewarded - these things her classmates met with an amused ill will."
That's a quote from Darlene, and is one of the reasons I liked her. I had thought college would be the place where I could finally "come out" as an intellectual, where everyone would love books as much as I do, where we'd stay up late having philosophical debates. Yeah, I married one of the few people I met who actually liked doing those things, and even he doesn't read very much. Most of the people I went to school with didn't know how to think critically and didn't care about anything other than getting a piece of paper with a degree stamped on it and having a good time.
Here's another good Darlene quote:
"Some people's minds just close for business after college. Once Leo graduated, he would never read a challenging book again..."
Sadly, it's seems like that's true of most people. I hate that.
I also liked that Darlene was a successful black doctor, and felt that the book dealt with the racism issue well. She talks about how people assume she's in her position as head of the Pediatric ICU because of affirmative action and how much that stings.
Okay, all of the things I like are about Darlene. Apparently the books should just been about her. Here's another one: "The sexification of kids, the toddlerizing of adults: Everyone in America would look, act, think, and covet like an eleven-year-old before long..." So true. We treat kids like they're capable of making adult decisions, dress little girls in skanky outfits, encourage sex at young ages, abortions for underage girls without parental consent, etc. Yet we treat adults like kids, like there isn't anything called personal responsibility. And then this just made me laugh. Darlene's talking to another parent: We'll have Coldplay CDs at the birthday party," Mrs. Hechler was saying, laying the accent on Coldplay like someone dropping word 'Harvard.'" Mrs. Hechler then talks about how proud she is that her daughter requested that, like she's the brightest kid ever because she likes crappy music that everyone else likes.
Okay, just one more thing about Darlene: "Guilty pleasures have become proud pleasures." We've become proud of what we used to be embarrassed about: adults watching crap like Gossip Girl and reading the Twilight series (lamest ending EVER. EVER. LAME.), having odd sexual interests, sleeping around, not doing our homework, slacking off at work. We brag about these things now.
I'm glad I marked these passages as I went along. Before I start looking at them again, I was having trouble remembering why I liked the book in the end. Now I remember: Darlene is awesome. Read the book for her. You'll have to push through the first few chapters though, they were not very interesting. Push through to page 63 - that's the first time you get Darlene's point of view. It's worth it for her.
More Than It Hurts You also counts for a book from 2008 for the Countdown Challenge.