I am a fully-motivated and crazy reader of avid proportions. A book is always at the ready no matter where I am, usually a fantasy of some kind or contemporary. (Nie zu viele Bücher!)
This is a book I wish I’d had the time to review when thoughts were fresh. Read in early March, the emotional reaction I initially felt has since faded but the story has not. (I warn you: this is also difficult for me to write without becoming lengthy.)
Pieces of Us alternates between four character perspectives: sisters Katie and Julie, and brothers Alex and Kyle. As events take place, we see each character’s view and how poor timing, miscommunication (or simply a lack thereof), and misunderstandings damage relationships. It is unfortunate, has power to greatly devastate, and it happens in real life to all of us at varying degrees. Each character, although driven by their unique needs, wants to discretely pocket their problems and keep the pain internal.
I would be lying if I said I loved these characters, because I didn’t. Even like is a strong word. My sympathy rose, crashed, and danced between the four, but I think this is one of Gelbwasser’s strengths. During times when I loathed Julie–absolutely despised her as an ugliness grew and swallowed her most endearing qualities– Gelbwasser gives us a wealth of insight. Yes, I was angry at Julie, but I understood the motivations behind her actions.
I cannot, however, say the same for Alex. Alex, Katie’s “summer boyfriend,” goes through one-night stands quicker than I can drink a pot of coffee. He gets an A+ in demeaning girls and showing nothing but complete disrespect toward women. To him, every hook-up girl is a “slut” or “skank,” except Katie. Katie is different, but does he feel the same when Katie’s secret is grossly smeared for everyone to look and prod at? Regardless of his reaction, he could not garner much of my understanding.
My chief complaint not only concerns his offensive treatment of women, but his failure to recognize himself as promiscuous. How is he better than the girls he sleeps with? What separates him besides gender? By societal standards, it seems, women–more often than men–are the dirty, despicable ones. This is an awfully unfair and unjust judgement.
Even more bothersome are reviewers who victim-blame Katie: it is her fault; she asked for it. People call her a slut and say “do not feel sorry for her” and so on. I feel these people are gravely ignorant while others are simply uncomfortable reading about sex. It is important to know and understand that rape and sexual coercion are not one in the same as sexual promiscuity. Gelbwasser does not explore the trauma rape victims undergo, and I still struggle in wondering if Gelbwasser should have. I think touching on deeper layers of Katie’s wounds would give these baffled readers a clearer understanding (and an educational moment). At the same time, sexual assault–although a major aspect– is not intended as the book’s focus.
To note: many feel this book is (too) graphic. I, however, disagree. I say it again: this notion seems to come from those who are uncomfortable reading or talking about sex. By my standards, for Pieces of Us to be “graphic,” then Gelbwasser would have to delve into detail. I would happily provide an excerpt if I had the book on hand, but I unfortunately don’t. There is rape, coercion, and yes: casual and ‘meaningful/first-time’ sex. Gelbwasser provides enough information for the reader to understand and have a sense of what is occurring. If that sounds graphic to you, or if the word “SEX” paints your face crimson, your literary taste may find it rotten.