The remarkable thing about love is how it operates as an entity—something born miraculously with a fast unraveling life span. Love lives, dies then haunts. The human body seems merely a house within which love can sully the sheets and leave its fingerprints on everything. Molly Gaudry’s protagonist in We Take Me Apart houses a love that ravishes her interior until all that’s left is a frame—walls with gaping wounds for anyone to enter. The last lines of the book reads, “Listen / if nothing else / I am at least a woman who has known & loved / the company of a lamp in a dark & empty room.”Â Lines such as these expose humanity’s exquisite vulnerability. Gaudry’s work implies that life, at its most essential, is the memory of love, hope, and the rooms it has occupied.
The plot of We Take Me Apart is made from reconstructed fairytales that center around the lives of three women: a mother, daughter, and the daughter’s lesbian lover. The lover leaves, the mother dies and the daughter is abandoned with no desire to experience more loss. Gaudry’s prose does not offer the comfort of a “Happily Ever After.”Â The novella ends with the main character cutting out her own eyes to prevent anymore ghosts—or rather memories—from overwhelming her. She has had enough. She wishes to remain with what life has already given her— to make time for reconciliation with her past.
It is the novella’s twisted fairytale quality that gives the reader the feeling that he or she has just had their umbilical cord cut a second time. The ending is necessarily visceral and suggests that there are multiple realities—that loss births its own children in us that require nurturing. Gaudry’s novella is a reminder that love is intangible and it demands our undivided attention. By gouging out her eyes, Gaudry’s character becomes a kind of ghost. She can no longer see our world. She has resigned herself to the past entirely.
We Take Me Apart begins with an homage to Gertrude Stein and could be read as a reinterpretation of the three-line poem, “A Carafe that is a Blind Glass.”Â This approach is an act of pure courage on Gaudry’s part. Only a brave and talented writer would dare mess with the perfection of Gertrude Stein. Add this offense to your favorite childhood fairytale being reimagined and We Take Me Apart reads like a novella about to implode. And yet, as if by magic, the story holds even as the narrative spins out of control.
If there is a how to describe the what
I feel then a dead-red-roses-filled &
fingerprint-smudged carafe on the center of a
table in the center of a room in the center of a
house in a place called before the stitching years
where I have long collected dust
sloughed cells that nowhere rise with the
entrance of a body
There is something brutally honest in Gaudry’s interpretation: she does mess with perfection and does so quite well. She continues by writing, “they stir me into steaming cups until I am gone.”Â Just as the three-line mastery of Gertrude Stein’s poem is gutted, the main character is consumed by her acts of self-sacrifice. Where Gertrude Stein was perfection, Molly Gaudry is human which is, in and of itself a different kind of perfection.
Not only does We Take Me Apart reimagine the works of others, Â the novella revises itself as it is being read.
This can be seen in the lines:
WHAT I WANT IS TO TASTE WITH
DELIBERATION THE WAY A
QUIET MEADOW BECOMES DIMMER AFTER
A WETTING AROUND THE EDGES
I said this not long ago for no reason really
except that by taste with deliberation I meant
hope & by quiet meadow I meant baby & by
dimmer I meant calm & by a wetting I meant
pink lips & by around the edges I meant clamp
of what I want
which is to hope the way a baby becomes calm
after pink lips clamp mother’s breast
Truth is flexible in We Take Me Apart and evolves as the main character recreates herself after each loss she survives. This flexibility of truth adds to the sense that multiple realities are co-existing in Gaudry’s book. What one means is not what one says. What one feels is not necessarily mutual. That doesn’t make the words and / or feeling any less real. Gaudry’s character seems to be collecting herself—to be housing multiples of herself from different stages of life. The book shows adulthood to be our multiple selves craving wholeness.
I wish I could say for certain I knew how Gaudry does it. She uses such simple language to create an epic and moving tale. We Take Me Apart is an exercise in empathy for the reader. It is pure song and story. This book is a gift.