Saturday, March 17, 2012

Losing Clementine Explores Mental Illness with Both Gravity and Humor

I read the first chapter of Ashley Ream's debut novel Losing Clementine on her website, where she offers an excerpt of the novel. I was thrilled when Lauren from HarperCollins contacted me about being part of a blog tour during the month of March. For a list of all the reviews posted along the blog tour (as well as some Q&As with the author and some giveaways), visit Ream's 30 Day Blog Tour post.

I was hooked from the first lines of Losing Clementine:

I threw the teapot out the window.
     It plummeted three floors and shattered into a hundred white porcelain pieces right behind Mrs. Epstein, whom I had never much liked anyway.

You definitely get a taste of the fiesty main character's personality from the very first page of the novel. However, while Clementine seems fearless and self-assured on the first pages, readers quickly learn that deep inside she is far from it. In fact, Clementine has decided to give up -- very literally. After taking various medications for mental illness throughout her adult years, she has flushed them all down the toilet and chosen to stop everything. She has decided her suffering, and her life, will end now.

In Losing Clementine, Ashley Ream reveals the final thirty days in Clementine's life, from settling her will to selling all her furniture to attempting to find closure with her long-lost father. Clementine is an artist, and her fiery personality matches all the cliches about artists -- she is difficult to get along with (just ask her assistant -- or her ex-husband). She is indecisive. She acts first and thinks later. Sometimes she regrets her impulsiveness, but just as often she doesn't.

Although Clementine has long thought of her life as empty of loved ones, especially following the tragedy of her mother and sister's deaths, Ream methodically shows us -- and her -- that she is surrounded by love. Some of my favorite characters in the novel were the peripheral ones: Clementine's ex-husband Richard, her assistant Jenny, her uncle-by-marriage. While Clementine is blind to their feelings for her, the reader will quickly catch on to their deep-seated love for this at-times-difficult-to-like character. After all, they put up with her when everyone else shies away.

Losing Clementine is an interesting character study of a woman who believes herself to be on the edge, but in actuality is surrounded by love. The conflict in the novel is almost a conflict between Clementine and the reader; you are left wondering throughout the novel if Clementine will realize her fortune or if she will follow through with her suicide plan. Because of her blindness to all of her blessings, it is at times difficult to truly be sympathetic towards Clementine. I found myself wanting to shake her, to open her eyes to the positives all around. However, Ream ultimately creates a realistic character in this situation. After all, those considering suicide are often exactly like Clementine -- unhappy, and unable to realize the possibilities that exist in the future. They are, like Clementine, blinded by their own emotions.

Ashley Ream wrote a short story published in the anthology LAndmarked for Murder, which uses Los Angeles landmarks as the setting for ten short stories by mystery and crime authors. She began her writing career as a newspaper journalist, then made the jump to fiction. Losing Clementine is her first novel, and she's hard at work on a second. You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, or on her blog.

1 comment:

  1. It's incredibly exciting to see CLEMENTINE making her way in the world. For so long, she lived only in my head and on the pages no one but me saw. Now that the book has made its way onto shelves and into the hands of readers (and reviewers), it is a more complete work, one that incorporates and supports the feelings and experiences of many, many people. Thank you so much for reading and sharing!



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