What is it to be perfect? Is this even an attainable goal? Should every human being have a role model, someone to look up to and emulate? Are things always what they seem from the outside looking in? These are all questions that we ask ourselves, making us ponder our existence and purpose in society every day. These are the questions the main character in Harriet Maxwell’s Clarice: Her Journey Through Life asks on her journey down the road to discover who she really is and what the deeper meanings of her life are.
Clarice leads a far from perfect life. She grows up in England with an abusive, alcoholic father who goes on all-night drinking binges only to come home and take his anger out on the family. Her mom is a people pleaser, always acquiescing to her husband’s drunken demands. Her younger sister, Prue, is her father’s favorite child, and her younger brother is far from being the perfect son. Born with only 3 fingers on one of his hands, he isn’t the son his father imagined having. Clarice drops out of school at 16 and begins working as a nanny for a young boy and girl. She begins to emulate the mother of the family she works for through an unhealthy cycle of dealing with her problems using food. She doesn’t consider herself fat, but after one weekend at home hearing some of her mother’s hurtful comments, she begins a cycle of bulimia. She moves on from being a nanny and creates a new life for herself, always keeping the cycle of bulimia as her little secret. After a session with a fortune-teller, words from a past lover begin to haunt her. Will she ever be able to end her battle with bulimia? Will she figure out why these words are haunting her?
To start, the book was really well written. I kept comparing it to a mix between Catcher in the Rye and Bridget Jones’ Diary. I think most coming of age stories are about people figuring out themselves, weaknesses and all, in their teenage years. This book takes a uniquely different approach in that it takes place later in life. It asks the question,
“What if figuring yourself out came later in life?”
Maxwell was able to write the book in a way that made the characters seem relatable and like people we actually know. My favorite character by far was Terry: the love of Clarice’s life, husband, and father to her child. He seemed like such a genuine person and the author wrote about him in such a kind way that he seemed like a good human being. His love for Clarice, flaws and all, really became the heart of the story. It also made Clarice the most comfortable than she had ever been and really allowed the character to have a sense of normalcy.
This book really opened my eyes to something that has personally impacted me throughout my whole life: food addiction. Dealing with a food addiction is something that puts a lot of shame on the character of Clarice, but allows her to deal with her problems in her own way. I felt a connection with Clarice because I have used food as a crutch for a good portion of my life. Anyone who has ever had an eating disorder, whether it’s anorexia, bulimia, over-eating, emotional eating, etc knows what role food can play. It’s a drug. It’s something we’re so ashamed to abuse, but it’s also something so necessary for our daily survival. The author made the idea of food addiction so true to life and true to the character that I felt like I was reading am intriguing news article rather than a book.
With all that being said, I would recommend Clarice: Her Journey Through Life to anyone! This story is very different from most coming-of-age novels because it takes place over the course of 20+ years. She comes to be her own person slowly but surely, and her struggles are written so well and so realistically that it made them jump right off the page. This is a must read for anyone who has ever had issues with food or anyone who knows someone who has.
4 out of 5 Stars
Clarice: Her Journey Through Life by Harriet Maxwell
Paperback 208 pages
Special thanks to Jessie from Author Solutions for sending me my review copy!
One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Clarice: Her Journey Through Life by Harriet Maxwell. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. Giveaway open to residents of US and Canada only. Good luck!