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Archive for the ‘Promises’ Category

PurityPurity by Jackson Pearce runs the extremes. There’s some humor, but essentially it is a sad book, but different types of sad for different reasons. It’s my first foray into Pearce’s books and despite a recommendation and review from some journal or other, I wasn’t quite ready for the story.

So, I’ll ask you. If you’re 10 years old and your mother is dying of breast cancer and she asks you to promise her three things, what would you do? Of course, you’d do anything under those circumstances. And, when you’re fifteen, and those promises either don’t make sense or are unrealistic or you disagree with them, what would you do then? Keep them? Find loopholes? Well, that’s Shelby’s dilemma.

Shelby’s father, who for the past five years, has been a relatively silent house partner, gets involved in planning the Princess Ball, a father-daughter dance, and wants to attend with Shelby. That’s all well and good, but there are vows that the daughters must make, part of which is purity (abstinence) until marriage, of which Shelby disagrees. So, she goes looking for pre-Princess Ball sex (the loophole being if you’ve done it before the vow, then the vow is null and void).

I’ll let you read the book to find out what happens. But here are the different sads:

1. A 10-year-old (or anyone, for that matter) losing a loved one to cancer. We adults can’t come to grips with “God’s plan” or the withering of a body. How can a 10-year-old?

2. Pearce makes a point at the end about taking promises literally or understanding the meaning. Shelby’s relationship with her father is the result of a literal translation but there is so much missed as a result. But then again, can a 10-year-old read between the lines? Can a grown man read between the lines?

3. Although Pearce makes and reinforces the distinction between ‘getting laid’ and ‘making love’, Shelby and her friends’ cavalier attitudes to losing their virginity (both boys and girls) is unnerving for an old guy like me. And while pre-marital, extra-marital affairs are commonplace in our world, I would hope I’ve instilled in my children that making love is special and getting laid is vulgar. (My own humble opinion, folks.)

4. More melancholy than sad are the memories of moms (and dads) who have passed away. Regardless of your age, those memories remain and Pearce says it wonderfully.

“People expect you to miss the big things after someone you love dies. They expect you to think about graduating, falling in love, getting married without your mother there. And I do think about those things. But the things I really miss are smaller, fractions of my life intersected with hers, the moments I didn’t bother remembering because they seemed too unimportant–going to the grocery store, coming down the stairs in the morning, watching television, folding laundry.  Things that happened a thousand times that will never, ever happen again. It’s like a drug that I can’t have, yet am hopelessly addicted to; I want those moments all the time. Some days all I do is imagine them, an endless stream of daydreams.”

From a literary standpoint Purity is nicely written but it’s the story that makes this book worth reading and thinking about. Unfortunately, I find much of it a sad commentary.

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