Whoops. Apparently my CBR 12 goal was 26 books, not 13. Two reviews here, and then we’ll see if it’s possible for me to read 2 more books and review them over the next week.
Nothing Is Okay by Rachel Wiley is a book of poetry that I initially hadn’t planned to review because I don’t really know how to review a poetry book. But I’ll give it my best shot. Wiley is a fat, queer, woman of color, and she is unabashedly all of these things. She throws them out there in the pages of her poetry for you to take or leave.
Most of the poems are free verse, and some are prose poems. Most of them are relatively short – usually not more a than a page or two and many that are less than half a page. Wiley also plays around with the typography quite a bit. In addition to poems about identity, there are also a number related to relationships, sex, and breakups. There are some recurring, amusing poems in which she rejects various people who have PMed her, as well as recurring ones on “how to eat your feelings.”
Although the poems aren’t terribly long, most of them are too long to share here, so I thought I would share just a few pieces that really resonated with or otherwise affected me. The first is the title of one of the poems: I Spent Years Not Wearing Red Because Bold Colors on Big Girls Draw Attention and Good Girls Do Not Want Attention But Anyway I Am Fat and Therefore Incapable of Goodness.
From a poem to her cat, the lines “I really like the way you hate basically everyone except me/especially on the days I am convinced/everyone else actually does hate me.”
From a short poem called “The Body Song,” the last two lines: “I lie in bed at night and callous my fingertips learning/this song on the guitar strings of my stretch marks.”
Next, Matchmaking for Beginners, which is a somewhat unfortunate title that is not as representative of the book as it could be. Most of it is first person narration from the character of Marnie MacGraw. Marnie is engaged to wealthy a-hole Noah (not a spoiler, though by the end of the novel he is even more of one than you thought), and she meets his great aunt Blix who tells her that the marriage won’t last and that Marnie is destined to have a big life. Blix ends up being right about the marriage, and when she dies, which is further along in the book than the synopsis would leave you to think, she leaves Marnie her brownstone in Brooklyn.
Blix has some powers that allow her to help others, primarily by bringing romantic love into their lives, and she recognizes that Marnie also possesses these abilities but isn’t quite aware of it (hence, matchmaking for beginners). It’s not quite magical realism but seems to approach that concept because the people who are close to Blix, and later to Marnie, seem to readily accept their abilities.
My main criticism of the novel is that there’s too much showing and not enough telling. I know usually it’s the inverse of that that’s the problem, but there were times when I really wanted to know Marnie’s thought processes as she comes to terms with having the abilities Blix said she did and with developing feelings for someone. It just felt a little like something was missing. I enjoyed the book, though. 3.5 stars.