Saturday, August 23, 2008

Searching For Anna Searching For Anna by Michaele Benedict

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is extraordinary that I get to write about a book by an author that I know, even more so when I realized that we have been acquainted for the last 20 years. There are hardly any people, even family members, about whom I can say that I have known for that long. So it is with some excitement, some trepidation that I sit down and consider Searching for Anna.

I first heard about her story in 1989 or '90 when I happened to ask Mikie who the girl was in the painting above the piano. It wasn't finished, and her face was clearly rendered but the background was indistinct, and she was holding a twig in her hand. I asked the question probably just to make small-talk, or because I was curious, but I wasn't at all prepared for the story that she told me about her daughter's disappearance. I remember wanting to cry and to change the subject all at the same time. It was as if, all of a sudden, on a bright day, a huge black abyss opened up in the middle of the living room, and I was sharing a loss that I could hardly comprehend.

Now it is 2008, I am older and now have the privilege of reading Mikie's account. It reads like a scrapbook, full of intimate diary entries, articles, letters, poems, reports, transcriptions. and postings. Some of it is heartbreaking, other things, like the letters, are hilariously off-kilter. I had a hard time putting the book down because everything resonated so strongly. Anna could have easily been another teenager I knew growing up-- we went to the same elementary school, the names of her neighbors weren't people I knew, but their last names were same as teachers and kids that I knew growing up in Half Moon Bay. Mikie's descriptions of the land south of town were evocative and beautiful. It was equally fascinating to have an adult's perspective of people and places I knew only as a child. I had the realization that Half Moon Bay existed before I arrived, that it had a dark side, and that the adults I took for granted had histories that are fascinating and complex.

I am grateful to Mikie for going through all the work and heartache to write this book and share this profound piece of her life with us. I have the temptation to wrap this up like a normal review I'd write for a normal book I'd find on a shelf somewhere, and I am realizing that I can't do that here, no more than I could give an objective account of the literary merits of this particular book. All I can say is that I cried, I was upset and I respect Mikie's amazing resiliency, resourcefulness, and gifts of language even more.

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.