Jul 16

Book Review: We Are Okay

We Are OkayWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I bought this book for my daughter, who read it and implored me to read it, adding “it will make you cry, but it’s good” which I usually equate with “drink this, it will make you vomit, but it’s good.” I don’t like crying, I don’t want to cry when I read books. I can make myself depressed without outside assistance, thank you very much. And yet, I read it, I cried, and yet I can say it’s good.

Marin is a freshman at college, coping (very poorly) with grief. She’s grieving her grandfather who, as it turns out, isn’t so great at grief himself. Marin’s strategy is to run away, literally and figuratively, from her pain. Only her best friend and ex-girlfriend Mabel is coming to visit for three days, so Marin will have to cope or at least start to face her pain.

What worked for me was the focus on details that really made me feel emotionally attuned with the protagonist. When Marin describes eating at a kitchen table so small that she and her Gramps accidentally brushed knees all the time, I could picture their relationship. When strangers (surfer friends of her dead mother) give her seashells, it tells me a lot about her place in the beach-goers society. When she puts her hand on Mabel’s shoulder and Mabel covers it with her own, it tells me worlds about how the two of them are feeling. Brushing teeth without talking to each other. Tomatoes so poor quality they are white in the center. Masking tape labeling everything in the fridge as hers. I felt what Marin was feeling vividly, because all the details made me feel like I was living her life.

Since it’s about grief, about people dealing poorly with grief and about the pain that inadvertently causes in the ones they love, it’s a sad book that just gets sadder and sadder as Marin’s poor choices drive people away. But just when it hit peak depressing, out of nowhere it smacked me right in the feels and then I really needed the tissue box. It had a hopeful, redemptive ending, and not a typical “heartwarming” which is code for “as depressing as orphans being tortured,” but “things are going to be okay because they all really love each other” kind of heartwarming.

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