Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Skinner Luce"

Patricia Ward was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, moving to the United States when she was eighteen. Her books include The Bullet Collection, an award-winning novel about two sisters growing up in wartime Beirut.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Skinner Luce, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Aunt Eva says you can’t stay over,” he remarks at last.

“I’ve got work first thing tomorrow. It’s a company fighting a takeover, they need extra hands. It pays double, I can’t say no.”

The lies pour from her like water. He gives her another sideways look but doesn’t call her out. He thinks she moonlights as an escort, a theory he advanced when he was wasted one night, then laid into her about his right to worry, her being his younger cousin and all. You don’t have to do it, he blathered. You’re better than that! She had to dig pretty deep not to contradict him. It stung, that he pictured her stooping so low, despite the ironic parallels to the truth. But she saw the advantage of letting his theory stand. He’ll never dare suggest it to Eva, who’d have an aneurysm from sheer horror, so he ends up in a circuitous way serving as an ally, stopping Eva when she’s pushing too hard lest Lucy blurt out the dreadful truth.

“Harry O’Neill finally kicked the bucket,” he says.

“Eva told me.”

“Remember when he caught us stealing all that gum?” He chuckles to himself. “What morons we were.”

“Yeah. You puked, you were so scared.”

“At least it hit his shoes.”

Lucy laughs a little, surprised to remember, actually. Memories of her early years are fragmented, disconnected. The shrinks way back said it was due to trauma. Not remembering things, not sleeping, nightmares, all these symptoms would go, they promised, once she resolved her issues. Fat chance of that. Sean keeps talking, and she listens, tried to joke around, her hands clenched inside her pockets. They were two peas in a pod, once upon a time, that’s what Eva used to call them. They used to make a tent in her room, hide inside, make plans for the future.
On page 69, Lucy has just arrived in Hull for Christmas Eve and is talking with her cousin Sean as he drives her home. It eats away at her that she always has to lie about what’s going on in her life, and that she must swallow his perceptions and criticism, but she has no choice. Sean and and her adoptive mother Eva can’t ever know the truth about her, for their own safety. It is also Lucy’s deepest fear that should they find out, they would no longer love her. Despite these layers of duplicity, she shares a genuine closeness with Sean. They grew up together and have a real bond that can’t be severed.

Their conversation doesn’t reveal the main elements of the book—that she is an alien created by beings from another world, the Nafikh; that she must Serve Them; that They are violent and terrifying and she could be killed any day. But the scene does raises an essential theme, because Lucy’s relationship with Sean and Eva is all that keeps her going. If it weren’t for her ties to them, she might give up and end it all. If you have come face to face with your creator and know that you are worthless; if you know your purpose here on this Earth, and it is wretched, why bother carrying on? This is the question servs face every day, how to find meaning in an existence that is so utterly sordid and hopeless. But Lucy, who by chance was adopted by humans as a baby, has what no other serv can possibly comprehend: a family. She has the luck of knowing what it is to love, and to be loved. She has ties and responsibilities, people counting on her and believing in her, people who actually care. It will be what’s at stake for her, when things start to unravel.
Visit Patricia Ward's website.

--Marshal Zeringue