Friday, December 25, 2015

Absolute Truth, For Beginners

West, K. (2015). Absolute Truth, For Beginners. Self-published.

New Adult / Adult / Contemporary Fiction / LGBTQ

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars


Book Blurb: 
Elisa Mancini is a Nobody. Painfully insecure, more at ease with books than with people, at twenty-three she’s a university dropout living at her aunt’s, drifting from one day to another, and waiting for something big to happen. 

Judith Shapiro is a Somebody. Arrogant and eccentric, she’s a superstar of mathematics, the subject of scientific articles, and the undisputed ruler of the world around her. 

In a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, Elisa falls madly in love with Judith Shapiro. For sixty-eight days she is the mistress of an internationally acclaimed mathematician. 

But loving Judith Shapiro is like running a marathon in a war zone. As days pass, Elisa’s wild infatuation takes on a suicidal bent, and the world around her starts to go to pieces. Just as everything is about to blow up, the moment of truth comes.

Absolute Truth, For Beginners is a story about truth, time, and love. Or about identity, positive nursing, degrees of happiness, Baroque art, scientific theories, homosexual lovemaking, arrogant television producers, and becoming who you really are.
HALL WAYS REVIEW: Katarina West is such a gifted, thoughtful, REAL writer. She proved it in Witchcraft Couture, and she's proven it again in Absolute Truth, For Beginners. Here, readers meet Elisa, a twenty-four-year-old who has big dreams and aspirations but completely lacks confidence. (REAL) It is only an act of desperation (the first of many) that lands her a job -- her first grown-up job -- that has her moving away from home and starting an independent life. Elisa's world is both humorous and heartbreaking, and as Elisa becomes hopelessly consumed by passion for her new love, readers will likely relate and remember their own experiences. From the starstruck start, through the blissfully unaware middle, and into the obsessive destructive end, thanks to Katarina West's remarkable writing, readers will feel every part of Elisa's emotional landscape in her affair with Judith. 

As a woman closer to Judith's age than Elisa's, I had a very hard time tolerating the relationship. It was inappropriate, abusive, unhealthy, and Judith clearly was mentally unstable and felt like a predator to me. I found myself searching for just one tidbit of insight to make Judith an okay person and not a self-absorbed user and abuser. Just as Judith is unreachable and un-knowable to Elisa, so is she to the reader, which was frustrating but I believe quite intentionally done by West. Readers (and Elisa) are not supposed to know Judith. Because of this distance, Elisa has to create her own version of Judith: a Judith who spends time with her and talks to her an listens to her -- and it is that Judith with whom Elisa falls in love. It was heartbreaking to watch because clearly, reality was bound to enter the picture at some point and there was no way it would be pretty.  Here again, West masterfully describes the rawness of rejection, the false hope of thinking the relationship isn't really over, the madness of getting even, and the beauty when hope rears its head again.

As the story progresses and then concludes, it is almost an afterthought that the relationship was a lesbian one. This is no accident because Katarina West is writing about passion, love, grief, and heartbreak. These feelings and experiences are a shared human experience, and the sexual preferences of the players are not important.  West handles them with finesse and keeps it classy.

American readers will notice that European conventions of writing and punctuation are used and will be delighted with some new vocabulary and expressions.  The editing could have been a bit more thorough, as there were some typos, dropped words, comma splices, etc. -- hence the 4.5 star rating. Naturally, Ms. West was gracious and appreciative of the feedback, and I fully expect corrections to be forthcoming. Thank you to the author for providing me an eBook in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katarina West is the author of Witchcraft Couture, her debut novel. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels.

She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.

Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.
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