Author Lauren Carter doesn’t waste any time drawing you into the complicated, compelling and uncomfortably familiar lives of her characters. From the first page, you’re immersed in the moving landscape of their existence, but you’re not immersed in a way that suggests urgency. The pace of Carter’s narrative begs reflection, rather than a frantic rush to the finish. To this end, the space between questions and answers that’s so pivotal to keeping a reader’s interest is artfully maintained.
The title of the book says it all: This has nothing to do with you. This phrase or a paraphrase is used sporadically throughout the book by different characters to distance themselves from the pain they’ve caused the people they love. The “it’s my life” claim that we’ve likely all made at some point in our lives is only partly accurate: our lives are our own, by the things we do affect the people who love us.
In the case of the protagonist Melony’s mother, it was murdering her husband and his lover. In the case of Melony, it was running away from her home and her brother, Matthew, after the murder and escaping into a nomadic, often drugged-out life. In the case of Matthew, it was denying Melody key information to understanding her mother’s motivation to commit murder as well as his level of involvement in events leading up to the murder. Through Matthew’s mental disintegration and his ensuing, dangerous life choices, Carter also provides fodder for us to examine how you can be narcissistic and still dislike yourself. You can be a piece of garbage that the world revolves around.
Carter’s skill as an empath and poet is evident in the stunning, subtle painting of landscapes, scenes and nuanced character psychology in this heart-expanding novel. A must-read for anyone brave enough to face the real darkness, light and complexity of familial relationships.
This Has Nothing to Do With You
by Lauren Carter
Freehand Books, September, 2019, 384 pp., $22.95 (print)
Hollay Ghadery is a writer living in small-town Ontario. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in various literary journals including The Malahat Review, Grain, Room and The Fiddlehead. Her book of non-fiction, which explores mental health and the biracial identity, is due out in 2021 with Guernica Editions (MiroLand).