Monday, January 30, 2006
Is life a broken promise? A rusty chain? What about a bubble of fear inflated by an innocent kid who grew up to remember it was always there, all around? More questions make their way into debutant author Annie Harmon’s first work of fiction ‘For Sarah’ (Publish America, Baltimore, 2005).
‘For Sarah’ laces several first-person stories of Lee sisters (Angela, Samantha, Rachel, Amber, Jessica, Ash, and Tia) who fight the way of their life out of the horrors of an abusive stepfather. The impact of Harmon’s powerful narration combines with her psychological insight to explore a woman’s many forms of fear that is the fruit of an insecure childhood. As the girls turn into runaways, one by one, their adult lives fall a prey to worse calamities from unhealthy relationships and alcoholism, to attempted suicide and murder, and delusional psychosis in Ashlee (who is the writer of letters to Sarah). While their lives strive to reconcile with peace, the Lee sisters fathom the meaning of strength and weakness.
Harmon’s book is exactly the kind of work that hooks the reader from its prologue to the last word. Every single page is breathtaking; each and every sentence adorable. Harmon’s emotional narrative is a living, breathing story of woman seen through many eyes-those of the Lee sisters, Bridgette (friend of Lee sisters), Nicole (Ashlee’s daughter), Mica (Jessica’s daughter), and the mother of Lee sisters. One can see a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife, a friend, and a woman living against and with men. And the picture is complete.
In the tradition of masterpieces, ‘For Sarah’ weaves a plot that ends with the last word of the narrative. Annie Harmon, in her author’s note, speaks of the tentative placement of the book in the category of fiction. It closely approaches an epistolary novel but has a mixed flavor of story collection, biography, and monologue. Ashlee’s letters to Sarah, a name she cannot assign to a specific person, produces the mist in the ambience of Harmon’s world. The reader joins hands with Ashlee in finding who Sarah is. The final answer is at once startling and cogent.
The end of the book incorporates a couple of nonfiction pages, those of ‘Questions for Discussion’ in which Harmon repeats the questions already bubbling up in the reader’s mind. The two most significant ones being ‘Why Tia is not allowed a story through the whole book?’ and ‘Who is Sarah?’
‘For Sarah’ is a touching book, raising tenderness and tears, and fortifying one against the shocks of hatred and rage. It is a book for every one who knows a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a woman. And who doesn’t?