Thursday, January 11, 2018

Richard Zimler - Strawberry Fields Forever

Teresa Silva is a witty, combative and maddeningly articulate 15-year-old who moves from the comfort of her Lisbon home to the New York suburbs. Unprepared for life in America she finds solace in her books, her unstoppable sense of humour and her father's playful affection. Her only friend, Angel, is a gifted but awkward 16-yeard-old from Brazil who worships John Lennon and his music.
When her beloved father dies, Teresa's world comes undone. When Angel is beaten up by other students for being gay and flees to the streets of Manhattan, she decides to take the only way out that seems to make sense.
With fierce irreverence, black humour and piercing insight, Zimler traces Teresa's desperate and moving journey toward herself.

Comment: Another book I got at the library and since I've been a fan of the author since the first book by him I tried, I think I might see if I can read all the library has available.

In this book, we have the story of Teresa, a teenage girl who moved from Portugal to America with her parents and younger brother when her parents decided to emigrate. Teresa is a smart girl but the culture and the language are different and it takes its toll to need to adapt and deal with complicated situations, such as the illness of his father and subsequent death. From that point on, Teresa lets go of her will to be a good person and only an almost tragedy stops her from doing something unredeemable...

This is not a very long book, in fact, my edition in Portuguese has 229 pages only. The story is narrated by Teresa in a way that feels like this is a diary she's writing to let the reader know her story. Overall, I liked it and it was really easy to read because once again the writing is appealing and filled with compelling information.
One detail I obviously liked is how there are some references to Portuguese society and situations and that just makes the book feel more realistic to me, because I know what those things mean. 

The story itself is quite profound, even when the writer tries to disguise some details through some comedy relief scenes or behind the conversation skills of teenagers.
All the themes addressed in the life of Teresa are emotionally draining and difficult to overcome and not only because she is a teenager and dramatizes things. Her father dies and because her relationship with her mother isn't the best and her only serious friend is going through complicated issues as well, makes it very difficult for Teresa to fully dissociate who she is from what she doesn't want to feel, she has not yet managed to process things properly. This is one thing everyone likely feels, whether a teenager or not, this fear things are getting out of control and it's better to not think nor worry. However, we can't turn in and off out emotions as easily as that.
Of course, it's not a perfect story, it does not always engage well, and some details felt a bit too dramatic, quite overdone for shocking reasons. Although this is only my interpretation.

I've read some comments and one person has said this book is introspective. I agree in some part, because Teresa doesn't want to let others realize how despaired she is feeling and often we, in our real lives, also don't want to worry others, we things we are being annoying, we thing people will be tired of us or of out conversations if we insist..., therefore, all the emotions portrayed go beyond teenage angst and actually provide an interesting look to what certainly goes in our inner self when we don't feel like sharing. I liked this "serious" tone and content that, although not too away from the author's usual register, is still more alike a non fiction essay rather than a fictional story, created just because. I liked the dichotomy perception it gave to the overall story.

This story ends up well, the characters all seem to grow emotionally and there's this sense things do get better if only we help each other or look for help in those that can provide it. 
All things considered, for me this is another good book by the author.
(I used the Portuguese cover)
Grade: 7/10

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