Concrete Angel is a thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written novel that defies simple classification. There are elements of crime, memoir, coming of age and psychoanalysis all chugging along side by side.
The story revolves around a woman named Eve, a moral sociopath who turns everyone she meets into an enabler. Dancing like marionettes, they enable her to do whatever she wants without facing the consequences. What she wants is to acquire more and more stuff, not because she needs it, but for the simple joy of possession. Trouble is, Eve’s means are limited, so she just takes what she wants, running the gamut of criminal behavior from shoplifting to fraud and dabbling with dang near everything in between. And because she knows herself and doesn’t give a damn, she never has to deal with remorse.
Our storyteller here is Eve’s daughter Christine, a young woman in search of an identity. She’s been so deep under her mother’s spell that she doesn’t even think of herself as a real person, and is surprised when anyone acknowledges her existence. Christine takes us on a tour of her mother’s life, from Eve’s troubled childhood to her troubled marriage and the troubled relationships beyond. Eve sees Christine as merely another tool—she even uses her to get away with murder.
Along the way, we meet a host of richly drawn characters, and we’re treated to a cultural history lesson. Eve’s world, from the fifties to the present, is peppered with references to books, TV shows, popular products and ideas of the times. And it all rings true. I know because I lived it too.
Ultimately, Concrete Angel is the story of Christine’s struggle to rise from the depths and emerge as her own person, a person who—despite Eve’s best efforts—turns out to be an honest, intelligent and morally upright human being.
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