‘The Almost Moon’ by Alice Sebold

From The Los Angeles Times:

La There are two ways to read Alice Sebold’s new novel, “The Almost Moon.” On the one hand, it is a toxic soup of contagious mental illness, cruelty, deception and regret: Sad middle-aged woman murders the mother she has always hated. On the other hand, it’s a comedy of errors: Sad middle-aged woman murders the mother she has always hated. I tried, like a polar bear clinging to an ice floe, to read it from the latter perspective, but no go. Blame a depressive turn of mind (after all, this reading business is not one-sided; there is no dark theater, no willing suspension of disbelief), but “The Almost Moon” caused sweaty palms and, in places, made me want to look at anything but the page. It is indisputably a good thing when writing is so vivid it causes physical reactions. But does a writer, or any artist for that matter, have the obligation to uplift us and make us feel better about our humanity? “I mean, if you have that mind, why not make something beautiful?” Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary on July 13, 1931. Woolf spent a lot of time on the dark side. Many of her characters are disturbed, trapped, such as Septimus Smith in “Mrs. Dalloway,” who commits suicide. But she felt the need to create something beautiful — not just lyrical but containing some seed of hope for the human race.

And yet, “they can’t all be pretty ones, girls,” as guitarist Pat Metheny told an audience before playing his cacophonous piece “Off Ramp” in 1981. “The Almost Moon” is not a pretty one, either. Rather, it’s a book about extremes.

More here.