Meg Tuiteâ€™s â€œDomestic Apparitionâ€ is sublime.
In this mosaic of tightly intertwined chapters that seamlessly join to form the novel, we meet Michelle, our narrator, whom we will not just come to root for, but to deeply care about in all her imperfections.
The novel is set deep in the human interior, and there we meet Michelle at age six and in reflected snippets, we travel with her the distance from her dark childhood in a seemingly normal family, through her hampered yet wild adolescence and into her early adulthood where in the midst of the soul-numbing crush of corporate America, an intimate human connection is finally made.Â We stay with Michelle while she learns to feel, to attach, to grieve.Â We watch her become human and it is tremendous to see â€“ to feel — this adult hatchling come into her own and enter the world.
Along the way, Michelle shows us life from inside her tragic, sprawling, Catholic family while maintaining enough taut emotional distance to keep from becoming maudlin.Â Â Â We see her survive the abusive nuns at school, her raging father, and the misery of watching her mother disintegrate â€“ while all the while sheâ€™s instructing us in the meticulous defenses people craft in order to survive.Â We meet a menagerie of relatives, friends, and colleagues â€“ people coping with loss, rebelling against mistreatment, pushed to the margins by an uncaring world.Â Michelle is a realistic interpreter who does a majestic job of exploring the truths barnacled to the harsh underside of family life.
Tuite never allows Michelle to become precious or sentimental and renders Michelleâ€™s life in painstakingly clear detail â€“ replete with every horror.Â Tuite offers her readers the â€œstatic eyeâ€ which (she reminds us) Â truth requires â€œat the very least.â€Â Sentences like this gem fill the novel:
â€œEvery night my grandmother limps out of the liquor store with the submissive stoop of the genuflected and the promise of a liturgy to come in a bottle.” You will be transported by the glorious imagery on every page.Â Â Howâ€™s this for description?Â â€œHis fabricated face, pliable in its chilling meteorological leaps and depths, ravaged over his features like a typhoon blasting through a village built on sticks.â€
Michelle and her siblings emerge from the darkness of their childhoods with more than their fair share of psychic wounds. Yet in rendering her charactersâ€™ vulnerabilities — and invulnerabilities — Tuite touches our own humanity.Â Â The gift of Tuiteâ€™s searing prose leads us to want for Michelle and her family as they wrangle with themselves and the world.Â Â Neither Michelle nor Tuite flinch â€“ darkness is made visible on the page.
The work is bursting with pain, with raucousness, with joy and, ultimately, heart.Â Â Michelleâ€™s life pushes us all to feel our own truths, no matter how grim or painful they are.Â Â She reminds us that facing our own history and who we are as a result of it is the only way to be whole in this world, to be able to feel the deepest of joys, to not be hobbled by our own selves.
â€œDomestic Apparitionâ€ is stalwart.Â It transcends brave.Â It shreds you and then replenishes you — much as the world will.Â We are reminded of the impeccable Oscar Wilde quote:Â â€œWe are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.â€ Meg Tuite takes us to the gutter with all its grime and then gently tilts our eyes to the skies.Â In her capable hands, we will indeed see the stars.
~Anna March is a writer from DC who now makes Rehoboth Beach, DE her home.Â Her work has appeared in Salon, Connotation Press and other publications.Â Her novel, “The Diary of Suzanne Frank”, is forthcoming.Â She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.~