Review Blog

Jun 22 2018

We are not most people by Tracy Ryan

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Transit Lounge, 2018. ISBN 9781925760040
(Age: 17+) Themes: Identity, Relationships, Faith and faithlessness, Marriage, Abuse. This story weaves between the unfortunate stories of two young people separated by continents and thirty years; both damaged by childhood circumstances and thrust into the strange world of cloistered vocations. The reader goes on the journey of discovery as Kurt and Terry age and explore an array of experiences that shape their future. They are 'not most people' and their personalities are not standard colourful stereotypes of young people of their age and times. The story thread and the connection for the two individuals occurs tenuously in the classroom; Kurt is the teacher who does his job without great success and Terry is the young female student who yearns in silence for this man. When he disappears from her life, she takes a cloistered route, not unlike Kurt's own, in order to find a sense of meaning and to fill her void. When they reconnect many years later, their relationship is impaired by history, by the torment of memory and their own flawed selves. Even though they are loving, they must struggle through the strain of the poverty and pain of their experience of love. This book does explore the painful experience of sexual abuse as it occurred within a European Catholic Seminary, and it does reveal marriage relationships that are flawed in their expression. Kurt, even when divorced and alone, remained close and strangely connected to his first wife, and maintained this connection even after the much younger Terry entered his life. The complications of this expression of relationship are felt in a peculiarly distant way, with pathos and uncertainty for everyone.
Although this book has a frank and raw honesty and a beauty that is poignant, it is not an uplifting story. It does not reveal hope or joy, and leaves an incredibly sad pervasive flavour. With each character's story and the time-line twisted and wrought in the early part of the book, there is a degree of uncertainty in the direction of the plot, but it is well-managed by Tracy Ryan. The maturity required to deal with the discussions of abuse and sexual or marital dysfunction, demand that this be read only by mature readers, despite the early chapters dealing with the younger lives of the central characters. The haunting quality of the writing and the literature references that are scattered through the book would best be understood by a well-informed or mature reader. Sad and sombre books can make you contemplate serious ideas and the directions of life that can be thrust upon people, and not everyone is alike.
Recommended (for the quality of the writing), to readers aged 17+
Carolyn Hull

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