Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King
I read this one based on a recommendation from The Perpetual Page-Turner. Jamie’s blog is new-to-me, but has already moved on up to my list of favorite blogs and bloggers. Her taste is very interesting and eclectic, so when she started talking about Please Ignore Vera Dietz on Twitter and it made her top books of 2010 survey, I knew I had to read it. Pair that with the fact that it was lounging on the library shelves, just waiting for me to pick it up, well, it was just meant to be! Plus, her review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz is just so clever, I could never hope to top it.
Vera Dietz’s best friend Charlie has died. But worse than that, right before he died, he did something to make her hate him. As Vera says, “If you think your best friend dying is a bitch, try your best friend dying after he screws you over. It’s a bitch like no other” (7). And that kind of frank language is just one reason to love Vera Dietz. She’s honest and flawed, a perfect narrator for her imperfections. Vera Dietz does not sugar coat or patronize and I loved it for it.
This is the kind of book you read in one sitting, because there is a mystery, but also because the mystery is not the center of the novel. I read Vera Dietz in one sitting because I loved the relationship between Vera and her father and the way it developed. Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs, but is one based on love and respect. It was such a healthy portrayal of a parent-child relationship, something that is unfortunately rare in novels.
I liked the different perspectives in the novel. Though it is mostly told from Vera’s point of view, her father, Charlie and a community landmark (the Pagoda) all have their own parts of the novel to narrate. And I know that sounds weird and at first I didn’t understand or like that the Pagoda was narrating sections, but looking back on it it was kind of funny. And that’s what’s so remarkable about this book – it deals with incredibly heavy topics, but it is also humorous.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz reminded me a lot of Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee for a lot of reasons. Though Say the Word deals with GLBT issues, both main characters are young women, unhinged by a recent death, who turn to alcohol to dull their sorrow. Though I loved both novels, I loved Vera Dietz slightly more because it dealt with the alcohol and, as I have mentioned, the positive father-daughter relationship. One of my biggest problems with Say the Word was that the main character drinks and drives and there are no consequences. Beyond that, she doesn’t even think it’s wrong. Here, the same thing happens, and even though Vera never truly gets in trouble for drinking and driving, she acknowledges that what she was doing was wrong and that is so important to me in a novel like this.
But above all, I loved Please Ignore Vera Dietz because of Vera Dietz. She’s such a great narrator. I mean, there’s a chapter, at the beginning of the novel, entitled, “You’re Wondering Where My Mother Is” that begins like this:
“My mother left us when I was twelve. She found a man who was not as parsimonious as my father and they moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, which is two thousand five hundred miles away. She doesn’t visit. She doesn’t call. She sends me a card on my birthday with fifty dollars in it, which my father nags me about until I finally go to the bank and deposit it. And so, for all six years she’s been gone, I have $337 to show for having a mother.
Dad says that thirty-seven bucks is good interest. He doesn’t see the irony in that. He doesn’t see the word interest as anything not connected to money because he’s an accountant and to him, everything is a number.
I think $37 and no mother and not visits or phone calls is shitty interest.” (13)
See? Heartbreaking and funny. How is that even possible? But King pulls it off.
So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile
Perpetual Page-Turner, Booking Mama, The Story Siren, Reviewer X, The Book Lady’s Blog, Presenting Lenore, Sarah’s Random Musings all wrote posts on Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Did you? Please leave your link in the comments and I’ll add it here.