Spanning the course of Fig’s childhood from age six to nineteen, this deeply provocative novel is more than a portrait of a mother, a daughter, and the struggle that comes with all-consuming love. It is an acutely honest and often painful portrayal of life with mental illness and the lengths to which a young woman must go to handle the ordeals—real or imaginary—thrown her way.
Date Reviewed: 6/1/15
Should You Read This: MAYBE...
Age Range: 15+
Before I get into it here and explain why I didn't like this book, let me mention one thing: This book was in fact well written, now, onwards with my rant! So, I received this advanced reader's copy about a month ago and it looked really interesting! I thought, Wow, I've never read a YA book dealing with schizophrenia. I wonder how this will be...Well, I started out liking it and initially I thought Fig was going to be sane and it was only going to be Mama with the mental problems. I was wrong. I would not recommend this to anyone with mental problems or any child whose parent has problems and is therefore worried they themselves might have issues. This book has a lot of dark and disturbing things in it which led me to wonder how it could be considered a 'YA' book. How young are we talking? I'm eighteen and I wouldn't even really recommend it for someone my age. I guess it would be appropriate for 15 and up but still. It starts out with Fig at six years old and progresses to when she is nineteen, the same age her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I'm about to dish out some spoilers but I think you ought to stick around to hear them. As the book went out, Fig starts picking off scabs so she bleeds and never heals. She then gets staph and has to go to hospital to have her leg drained of pus. How did her father (the sane one) or her uncle (another sane one) not notice this sooner? Fig's Mama becomes worse and Fig decides to make a 'Calendar of Ordeals' where everyday she has to make a 'sacrifice' e.g. not touching metal, not drinking or touching water, not being near fire to try and make Mama get better (basically like witchcraft, I guess). It goes into great detail of quite a few days of the so called 'ordeals'. This is when at around page 184 that I was just like, okay...if I have to hear about one more 'ordeal', I am not finishing this book! It was very dragging and droning and a bit much. Also I should mention one thing that happened before the 'ordeals' was that Fig got a knock off Barbie doll as a present that other children made fun of and so she crucified it. I'm serious. She took the doll and hammered it to the back of a shed at her school and then used her grandmother's Avon lipstick samples to paint the blood. As she does this she (I guess) hallucinates that the doll is real and crying/thrashing around. Not a pretty picture to imagine. So, anyhow, after I slogged through the 'ordeals' bit and read on, it just didn't let up on the depressingness. Fig's Mama checks herself into a clinic and so she no longer lives at home. And now, here's another reason why I wouldn't recommend this for YA: Fig moves up from picking to cutting and vividly describes herself lying in a full bathtub using a razor blade to cut her arms/thighs/legs till she's pretty much just a bleeding pile of deli meat. Whenever Fig describes picking off scabs and cutting she makes it seem like it's so amazing and she can finally breath/feel alive. (I feel that if some young adult read this while feeling down and considering picking/cutting this would just make them want to because Fig makes it seem like it's the greatest thing.) So, Fig is in the bathtub near death from cutting and her uncle finds her and just takes her out, cleans her cuts and bandages them, plus gets her a new nightgown. WHAT THE BLOODY HELL!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! How can you cut yourself to shreds and then just need some antibiotic ointment and some bandages?! Plus her uncle doesn't even tell Fig's father about it! WTBH!? And Fig's father never notices the bandages?! WTBH!? Moving on...Mama starts coming home for visits blah blah, Fig decides that even though she is extremely smart she will just make her grades go down, not go to college and instead nurse Mama back to health for the rest of her life. Let me mention that throughout the book Fig talks about how she wishes she was still in her mother's womb and hadn't been cut out due to being born breech. The reason was, Fig's Mama wanted to have a natural child birth but then Fig was breech so she had to have a c-section. When Mama is apparently getting better and living at home, one night it's raining and she leaves and throws herself in a river therefore killing herself. Fig goes out and finds her dead in the river. Note: At the beginning of the book, Mama overdoses on her meds and almost dies. And now for the grande finale! So Fig's family lives on a farm and at the end she helps her dad with the ewes who are birthing lambs. One of the new mothers has a breech lamb so Fig's uncle has to cut the lamb out. Of course through all this, Fig is imagining herself as the lamb. The mother dies sliced open and the lamb lives. Fig takes care of the lamb and here's where I just went 'Wait...what?' Throughout the whole book it was made VERY CLEAR that Fig and her Mama DO NOT eat meat! Then at the very end, Fig's grandmother makes a fancy dinner for Fig, her uncle, and her father. They sit down and there is a cooked sheep on the table. This sheep carcass has a slightly disguised slit in it so of course it is the ewe who died after being cut open! And then when Fig's father asks if she wants some and Fig is trying not to freak out, she calms herself and says 'Yes'. I mean...what? Anyhow, that was the end and I was very glad. It was an overall very depressing read with an odd ending.