‘What Becomes’ mirrors cracked souls

Last Updated: May 02, 2010, 10:00 AM IST

London: This book is like a mirror reflecting our cracked souls.

In some of the 12 short stories in ‘What Becomes,’ AL Kennedy is painfully detailed about our human flaws and describes them so realistically, the reader dives into each sentence. In others, she leaves much to be guessed. Though, there seems to be an inherent sadness to all of them.

"Saturday Teatime" is a story about the effects of parental fighting on a child and how our childhood fears haunt us the rest of our lives. The girl remembers Saturday teatime as a 9-year-old with a friend visiting. She suddenly runs upstairs to her parents` bedroom. The door is locked. She can hear her mother screaming inside the room as her father hits her repeatedly.

"I am lying with the whole of myself, pretending I`ve come to save her, stop him, when inside I know that I can`t because I`m too frightened."

The girl talks about how she cannot stand either parent or the situation in the house, but she says it is clear she has to.

The girl says she knows what she is like:

"This need to be happy, to be solitary, to have someone of my own, to be brave, loved, hated, terrified, to make a family, to stay without one, to find the perfect pain."

In "Marriage," a husband describes his strained relationship with his wife and how he gets off on hitting her.

"And to be fair, he rarely hits her in the face — it isn`t something she`d expect," Kennedy writes. Further on, the man is having sex with his wife and hits her and likes it. His wife, meanwhile, seems to detest her life with him. While watching men do construction work in the rain she says, "I don`t know how they stand it," and it seems painfully obvious she is referring to her life as well.

"Sympathy" is the story of two people who met at a hotel. They don`t even exchange names and end up having sex. The woman seems desperate to make a connection to the man, who only seems interested in being with her for the night. The story is essentially their dialogue. It is their conversation that creates the story. It is so realistic and descriptive, at times, vulgar, sad and even exciting.

The woman asks him if he is married.

"I have — do you really want to know? — I have a daughter who is fourteen and an ex and ... not much else. Why? Do you want to tell me you`re married? Is this that kind of thing?"

Her answer.

"No. I`m not. Married. No husband. No kids. No one."

Meanwhile, in "Confectioner`s Gold," a husband and wife, Tom and Elaine, share a meal. They have monetary problems. It seems the husband has been laid off and is emotional. He thinks about his wife and how they used to be passionate about each other.

Kennedy then inserts a little bit of life.

"But once you start that, you find all kinds of rubbish. In the end you can`t work out what disgusts you more."

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