Monday, June 15, 2015
Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik
If you like: bail bondsmen * private schools * dreams
Dark Rooms is the story of Grace and her sister Nica. After Nica is found dead in the graveyard between the house where they live and the private school they attend, Grace lives surrounded by her ghost. Nica was the favorite subject of their mother’s photography, and so her watchful eyes remain around the house pleading at the family from beyond the grave. The devastation of having Nica die just as she was going to leave her behind when she attended college has jostled Grace, and her careful life unravels in the aftermath. Both of her parents are also disrupted, each hiding from reality in their own way.
The case around Nica’s murder was quickly resolved, but something in the resolution doesn’t sit right with Grace. The mystery surrounding the essence of Nica’s life does not flow into a murder and subsequent suicide by a jilted admirer. As Grace sinks into the life her sister led, she realizes just how much about her sister she did not know. Nica was beautiful and enigmatic. The type of girl who was used to getting what she wanted; a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Cool Girl combined. Being the constant subject of her mother’s lens took its toll, but also drove her to live her life in a constant state of performance. Grace begins to understand the secrets of Nica’s life, and sometimes feels as though she is becoming the ghost of her sister, rather than being haunted by her. As she begins to piece together the last few weeks of her sister’s life, Grace understands that the truth does not always set you free. Sometimes there is no feeling better. You may be able to let go, but the pain and knowledge will shape your life going forward. It is up to you to learn to wield them as a tool, or let them trap you like shackles.
In life, we all have secrets, and in death ours are not the only ones that are revealed. As we move through life, events become entangled with our friends, family, and lovers. We all have an implicit bond to keep each other’s secrets. When that trust is breached in life there are consequences, but they are faced knowingly. When the bond is broken after our death it is entirely different. The dead are treated with a reverence they may not have had in life, and the other parties are left with the consequences; it becomes their story against the unyielding word of the dead. An unexpected death is the most harsh, especially when the deceased is young. As a teen you have your entire life ahead of you to deal with the consequences of your actions. When that time is taken, the barbs that are ripped from those around you cause long, festering wounds. Discovering the secrets held by someone you love is always difficult, no matter how innocuous they are. When they are darker secrets, the pain of accepting them is all the harder. In many ways the dead can have more influence than the living. You can make amends, and move on when you learn something about a close friend. When their fate is chiseled in stone, there is no way to soften the blows. Sometimes the weight pulling on a person from six feet under is lifted when the truth they shared with the dead is revealed. For others the weight of what they dig up will pull them down even farther. The balance of the scales is not measured by some blind justice, but by the ties of someone with the cold stare of the dead.
If you seek the ghosts of those you loved, read Dark Rooms.
Anolik, Lili. Dark Rooms: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2015. Kindle Edition.