Book Review: Reunion by Hannah Pittard
Grand Central Publishing, $25, ISBN 978-1-4555-5362-4, 2014
Reunion by Hannah Pittard is a relentless combination amusement and cynicism. It’s that book that makes you feel good about your life, because you probably haven't screwed up your life worse than Kate, Reunion's main character and narrator.
This is how the story goes: Five minutes before Kate’s flight is set to take off for Chicago, she learns that her estranged father has killed himself. She’s not sad, but shocked and annoyed that her siblings demand her presence in Atlanta to take care of their late father’s effects. Classic family drama ensues, told in first person by Kate, who’s tone resembles that of a 4-year-old yelling, “I’m right and you’re wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Needless to say, Kate is wrong about pretty much everything, but in the moment, every decision she makes is a confident one.
With that said, here’s three things I learned from this hapless character:
The best type of narrator is an unreliable one.
Kate is constantly lying to herself, those around her, and us, the reader. This is obvious from the beginning. You can’t expect to find clarity in a character that cannot see themselves. The worst part is that Kate has the capacity to understand herself, she’s clearly very bright, but she actively chooses to live in a reality that stunts her growth.
I love that Kate makes everything difficult for herself. Reading this book was like reading the worst possible Choose Your Own Adventure narrative. It’s an exaggerated self, it’s full of lies I was too honest to tell, it’s a taste of loneliness that is punishing and sad; it’s a feeling that we all know, but like Kate, we never admit to.
No one actually likes a “likeable” woman.
Kate’s actions will make you physically cringe because they illuminate parts of yourself that you do not like. This is what Pittard said in an interview with Buzzfeed:
“It’s really ridiculous that women are expected to write about women who are likable, or that we want to have as our friends,” she says. “[In Kate] I wanted to write a woman who I believed was realistic, because I think women are so fascinating, and we are so complex, and we have a capacity for cruelty unlike, perhaps, men that I have known. And that, to me, you don’t often get to — you aren’t often invited to spend time with that part of a woman’s brain. I certainly don’t always love to talk about it in myself, but I am intrigued by it, and I think about it all the time.”
I find the above statement to be very beautiful. There are so many complexities of the human mind and soul. It’s easy to understand why we try focus on the positives of a person, especially in these particularly ominous times, but it serves us better to focus on the harder truths, no matter how small they may be.
I’m not sure how to find balance between being (or feeling like) an adult and wanting to be taken care of.
I am a demonstrably independent person, which I find to me my greatest strength and most obvious fault; it’s what makes me likeable and equally flawed. A few weeks ago, I was horribly hungover and I went to my best friend’s house to be taken care of. Realistically, I went to her house and made myself pasta, and then chose what we would watch on television. I like to be taken care of, but I don’t like to feel small or incapable. I find romantic relationships lovely, but I’d rather be alone than to be held back even in the slightest.
I believe that Kate and I are not all that dissimilar, we both have difficulty asking for and accepting help, but the difference between us is that Kate will not even help herself.
Reunion is a book that made me feel great and terrible all at once, which is what I believe great writing should do. There's something so deeply satisfying about a book that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Have you read Reunion? What did you think? Tell me below.
Alexandra Gerard is a freelance hustler in Chicago; she provides photography, blogging, and social media services. You can find her on instagram: @itsyagrlgerry.