December: Pages 116 to 173

Hello:

I hope you enjoyed reading my last post. Let’s dig in! My overall impression of this middle section of December is that it gets closer to the core of each of Winthrop’s characters. Ruth can no longer be maligned for her tough-love attitude, but revered for her devotion to her daughter, although at her personal sacrifice. Yes, she bitches and moans at times, especially when she can’t relax during her massage, but it isn’t offensive, just realistic. Wilson, on the other hand, is slowly losing favor with me. He seems a bit lazy and misguided. And while I think he is well intentioned, he seems unwilling to act on those intentions, whether it means placing a simple call to Ruth or giving Isabelle an extra push. He seems afraid of Isabelle, and especially afraid of Ruth. In the last scene, we finally see a moment of tenderness between Ruth and Wilson as she cries to him in front of the fireplace. But the tenderness, I fear, is more a result of pure exhaustion and despair.

On to Isabelle…I have to say I expected a bit more from her by now. Maybe even a scene where she speaks to herself? While waving to Thomas was a huge breakthrough, the art class was a painful disaster. I don’t think Winthrop could have come up with a better metaphor for Isabelle’s disgust and anger than the red painting. It brought me back to an introduction to poetry class I had when I was in sixth grade. We had been goofing off and our teacher walked out of the classroom (a very dramatic move, looking back on it), but then came running back in with a huge piece of red chalk exclaiming, “Red, mad, this is how I feel!” Isabelle also borderline combusts when the new psychiatrist presents her with her journal. Do you feel that Ruth made a huge mistake by taking the journal? I don’t think so, at all. Isabelle’s growing anger throughout this section seems to correlate with her parents pushing her harder than usual. I think her parents are at their breaking point, especially Ruth, and won’t coddle Isabelle like they used to. And this new approach, I think, will lead to her speaking.

So what does everyone think will happen next? My overall impression is that Isabelle is becoming more sympathetic to her parents. She is starting to feel worse about how she treats them and several times throughout these pages we see her berating herself for making everyone around her feel so sad and hopeless. Do you think Thomas will have a greater role in the upcoming chapters? Do you think the family will make it to Africa? And what does Africa represent to each character? Wilson thinks he is healing the family by offering up Africa, but Ruth sees it as an insult to all the hard work she has put in with Isabelle—not to mention major avoidance of the problem at hand.

I will post again next week on pages 177 to 239, which will bring us to the end. Enjoy the rest of the book; I can’t wait to see how it wraps up!

—Amanda Armstrong

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