Cannonball Read V: With or Without You by Domenica Ruta
Considering the kind of mother she had to contend with, it should come as no surprise that Ruta's adult life is not all roses. Dysfunction becomes a consistent theme as she falls into her own habits of substance addiction in her adult life. Despite moving across the country to Austin, Texas, her Kathi remains an invisible presence in Ruta's life with her life mimicking that of the woman who raised her.
While Ruta's childhood circumstances are extraordinary, her story touches on a common ambivalence in all parent-child relationships. "15. Do you know how much I love you? 16. Do you know how much I hate you?" Ruta writes in an unsent list to her mother after they have become estranged. This push-pull dynamic - at once being repelled from yet fiercely drawn to the one that made you - is something that rang true for me as a reader. Ruta's willingness to lay bare every violent, angry and emotional detail of her past makes the fraught bond between mothers and daughters incredibly lucid.
Ruta writes with a kind of acute self awareness that seems to acknowledge her own flaws as much as those around her. Although the story is at time scattered, it seems to mirror the way memories return to us - bits and pieces out of chronological order that together make up something resembling a mosaic. I can only guess that through the act of remembering and retelling her story for the reader, she was able to undergo a form of healing the wounds caused by a childhood no one should have to endure.
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