She’s Come Undone is a novel that I have found to be particularly memorable. I read this book during high school while volunteering at a library about two minutes from my house. Volunteering to check-in books (finished and dropped off and so presumably worth reading) at a library nestled in between two towns had its benefits. One such benefit was that I could pick up books to read as I checked them in. This was how I came upon She’s Come Undone. I was intrigued by the excerpt for the novel and decided to read it. I had no idea then that the book was so widely read (and how long it had been out). I had no idea how powerfully it would affect me.
She’s Come Undone is a work of fiction. I came across it simply out of curiosity at a library during my senior year of high school. There were parts of the book that were either so terribly upsetting or so utterly moving that I found myself wanting to discuss it with whoever was willing to listen. I would read it at dinner and get so angry at a character I would immediately begin ranting about it at the table to my parents. I felt so clever to have found it on my own. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Oprah was already one step ahead of me; several steps, in fact. Years worth of steps.
So while America had been reading this book since 1996, I was just discovering it. From a reader’s standpoint, the main character was someone almost instantly familiar to me; she is someone I can connect with. She has problems that nearly everyone has experienced at some point or another: feeling like an outcast, having negative self-image, and having general feelings of insecurity. She also had some awful life experiences, though not necessarily ones I could directly relate to: rape, emotional and physical abuse, and attempted suicide.
In the aftermath of a rape, the main character turned to food for comfort and used the television to drown everything out. Albeit not in such extreme circumstances, I can relate to this isolated feeling. From other experiences in my life, I’ve often had the desire to simply be away from everyone and everything. It brings to mind the concept that it is human to want to leave everything.
While enduring the emotional and physical abuse her husband constantly inflicted upon her, the main character often seemed to shut down and lose hope for a better future. As a reader, at times I felt just as frustrated and depressed reading about the character’s plight as the character herself must have felt in her own situation. The story prompted me to observe similar things happening in my own life: the complexities of relationships, self-image and self-doubt.
I should point out that there were hilarious moments in the novel in addition to all this seriousness. If not for this comic relief, the novel would have been oversaturated with sadness and much less pleasant to read. The main character’s humor, in addition to side characters, helped alleviate the frequent heaviness of the plot without taking away from the author’s poignant voice.
Wally Lamb (the book’s author) received oceans of praise for his keen ability to write from the perspective of a woman. Certainly he is deserving of praise for the novel had such a powerful voice. However, narrowing the story down to its messages according to gender erases so many potential connections. This is the sort of voice that I see as genderless. This character could have been any one of us; that is most of what makes this novel so moving. It can apply to all of us.
I would recommend you read this right now, at this moment, as soon as you can, because it will always be relevant.