Friday, October 17, 2014

Beyond the Pale Motel

Catt and Bree are hairdressers in LA. They've been friends for a long time and been through alcoholism, recovery, and over a decade of sobriety together. Catt's husband Dash suddenly leaves her for a rich, young starlet. This along with the Hollywood Serial Killer murders that seem to be closer and closer to her are shattering her world. She seeks comfort in many men, but all of them turn out to be using her. She sees a pattern to the murders and thinks Bree might be next, but is she right or is she becoming unhinged from reality?

Beyond the Pale Motel is Francesca Lia Block's newest adult novel. It's a bit more sexy and dark than her teen work, but just as lyrically written. I loved how the horror theme extended to unexpected areas of the story. Catt's salon is called Head Hunter and her gym is called Body Farm. Her blog is called Love Monsters and she has monster labels (vampire, manticore, zombie, or goblin) for the types of men there are. The story centers around Catt who has it together. She's been going to AA for years and her relationship with her husband is solid as can be. Her family consists of those she has chosen: Dash, Bree, and her son Skyler. Everything is idyllic and happy right up until it all falls apart. It was hard to read Catt's life just disintegrate. She is a sensitive person who needs people desperately and wants to be a mother above all else. Her need for people translates into hypersexuality after her husband leaves her and she invites man after man into her bed to fill the emotional void. This doesn't work out since they turn out to be scumbags. These encounters don't help her initial pain from her breakup, create more pain, and send her spiraling out of control, ending her sobriety. She also consistently had a horrible view of herself, thinking she was unworthy, ugly, fat, etc. This is unfortunately confirmed in one way or another by virtually all those around her. Her journey from solid to shattered was well written, but heartbreaking and hypnotic to read.

I have a lot of problems with the book that infuriated me. First, the way Catt's "friends" treated her when she was down. She made one mistake and her best friend just completely cuts off all contact and removes her from her life after over a decade of friendship. One mistake. Really? That is a sucky and unsupportive friend. I also couldn't believe how she was treated by her AA sponsors. They either weren't available for her to talk to during a crisis or wouldn't even "waste time on her" if she didn't redo some of the steps of the program. They along with the entire book were super judgmental about her sexual activity. There's nothing wrong with finding solace in sex as long as it's consensual. It didn't turn out to be good for her at all, but it's a better way to cope than turning to drinking or drug use. There was no understanding from anyone really. The horror element didn't figure as largely as I would have liked. It was really an afterthought to all the stuff that was going on in Catt's life. That element came into play during the last few pages and ended very abruptly. It just wasn't satisfying and just rubbed salt in the wounds.

Beyond the Pale Motel is well written and evocative, but the horror element isn't major enough and the people populating Catt's life are awful, selfish, judgy people. The writing kept me interested, but my grievances outweighed the good things about the novel.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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