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Pieces of Molly is a psychological thriller -- it just doesnchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)t fall into the normal categories of that genre. Instead of featuring undercover spies or murder mysteries, it pursues the little mined psychological territory of childhood: the dynamics of how one progresses from the trauma of birth through a mix of irrational fears and delightful discoveries to becoming a person on the verge of adolescence.
Judith Gurney brings the particulars of her childhood alive: her involvement with chickens and exciting tractor rides along with her absorbing interaction with a peculiarly cold mother and an adoring father. At times her probing touches the rumblings of tectonic plates colliding beneath the apparently benign exterior her family presents to the world. The description is made more nuanced by the writerchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s ability to shift seamlessly from her point of view as a child into reflections of her adult self as she cares for her aging parents.
The bookchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s subtitle is chr(226)chr(128)chr(156)an ordinary life.chr(226)chr(128)chr(157) How is growing up on a largish farm in a rural England that no longer exists, with a family fraught with scandalous secrets, chr(226)chr(128)chr(156)ordinary?chr(226)chr(128)chr(157) It would seem quite the reverse, but as the reader accompanies Gurney in her personal exploration, the vast common ground of everyonechr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s childhood emerges. Presented with such detailed recall, the reader is plunged into memories of similar experiences. We all share the fierce fears and jealousies along with the insights of childhood -- only few of us have reflected on them in such depth and even fewer have been able to write of them with such lucidity. It is the gripping drama of childhood itself that is chr(226)chr(128)chr(156)ordinary.chr(226)chr(128)chr(157)
This book makes us remember our own childhoods, with its terrors, yes, but also with its wonderment. At one point Molly speaks of playing a game with infinity. chr(226)chr(128)chr(156)Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? I had a bucket with a picture of Contrary Mary on it, and she herself held a similar bucket. I stood in front of the central mirror, holding mine. Try as I would I couldnchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)t make out the picture on her bucket, but I knew it was there, Contrary Mary and the bucket receding infinitely, like Alice getting smaller and smaller and ending up in a totally different dimension. . . Was someone infinitely larger than me, I wondered, holding a bucket with me as a picture on it?chr(226)chr(128)chr(157)
Mollychr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s many questions remind us of the innate ability of a childchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s mind to ask ultimate questions, mathematical ones, and ones about the very nature of existence. A childchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)s fresh responses to life are truly extraordinary, but their universality makes them ordinary. Donchr(226)chr(128)chr(153)t miss the joy of revisiting these insights yourself.