By Molly Rainier
CreateSpace, $14.99, 198 pages
Linda and Mary by Molly Rainier takes place in the 60’s, where change is often uncomfortable and inevitable. Mary Polleti, housewife, finds the unexpected in the form of a Cro-Magnon woman, hunched and shivering on Mary’s fire escape. Having no idea where the woman came from, Mary brings her into her apartment and gives her the name Linda. With great difficulty, Mary teaches Linda all there is to her life: cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking care of her husband, while he and the rest of their neighborhood look on in wonder and disapproval. Mary has no idea that by taking Linda in, she will upset the very fabric of her and her husband’s life.
Rainier’s characters all seem to be lost and held captive by the roles they are expected to fill in their lives. The men seem confused and pampered, wanting everything in its place and nothing to do with change, while the women are invariably shackled to the men and live lives of quiet loneliness. She paints a picture of desperate people driven to desperate choices, but with a detachment singular to those with little inward reflection. Set in a time where everyone was touched by death and war, we watch a cast of characters go about their daily lives, ignoring the broader world around them. Rainier expertly weaves an interesting net of characters, each seemingly unrelated to the next yet all of them are oddly connected.
While it is certainly well written, Linda and Mary might leave the reader with more of a question mark than anything else. By the end of the book there seem to be more questions than answers – existential questions like: what is the point? Why are we living? Who are these people anyway? Why did any of it happen? What purpose does the character Linda serve in this story? The book might offer more to the mind as a puzzle rather than offering insight into the human condition. Rainier writes with a strong tone of detachment, and while this feels like the right choice for this kind of book, there seems to be something lost when it comes to relating to the characters. Due to the tone of the book it feels a little difficult to invest in the characters, to care about their choices let alone understand them.
Reviewed by Nicole McGillagreen
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