I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, January 9, 2017

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

I believe the title of the book comes from the Lewis Carol book Alice in Wonderland where the Red Queen says, "Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."  In the book, set in Australia, nerdish boy, Dan Cereill has just had his world turned upside down.  His father has bankrupted the family and came out of the closet to boot. His mother inherited the use of her Aunt Adelaide's house for as long as she is alive. So at least Dan and his mother have a place to live while his mother tries to start up her business of making wedding cakes, which she seems determined to sabotage by convincing the women to not get married. So Dan feels the need to get a job to pull in some money, but he's not quite fifteen yet, so it's hard to find a job. On top of that things are going horribly at school and he's desperately in love with the girl next door that he has yet to meet.

Dan loves to make lists so his first list, the one that follows throughout the book is this: 1. Kiss Estelle. 2. Get a job. 3. Cheer my mother up. Better chance of business not crashing if she's half okay.  4. It's not like I expect to be cool or popular at the new school, but I'm going to try not to be a complete nerd/loser. 5. Should talk to father when he calls. 6. The existential one. Figure out how to be good. I don't want to be the sort of person who up and leaves his family out of the blue.  Written below these six are the words Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible Impossible. They all seem insurmountable to him.

He is so desperate to learn more about Estelle that when he discovers the hole in the wall between their attics that is covered up in boxes he goes over and looks around. When he knows she isn't there he slips over to her side and discovers that she has several years worth of diaries there along with a lot of other things some of which has come from his side of the attic. He can't stop himself from reading the diaries even knowing that if they ever do get to know each other it will hurt that relationship.  And they slowly do get to know each other in a weird way.

While he has made a friend with a girl named Lou and he still has his old friend Fred who lives nearby but goes to a different school, he has made a powerful enemy in the class bully, Jayzo, who makes it a point to make his life miserable. He does eventually get a paying job, which is a good thing because the dog Howard that they also inherited has a limp and needs to see a vet. His mom is obsessed with Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, and is in a weird headspace that he can't seem to help her except to not burden her with his problems or any problems for that matter.

This is a delightfully written book with a touch of sarcastic wit that comes from being a teenager who likely rolls his eyes often.  Dan is going through a really tough time that at least some of which is very relatable to lots of us out there.  But he's a sweet kid who really is trying to do the right thing and step up to the plate and take the place that his father had in the family and he doesn't even know how to shave because his father didn't teach him before he left so he doesn't know who to turn to for advice on manly things at first.  You even forgive him for reading Estelle's diaries once you realize why he really did it.  You spend the book rooting for things to turn around for him and feel his anguish when they don't or when he gets caught doing something he maybe shouldn't.  I really loved this book and highly recommend it.

At the time of my snooping, before we’d even met, I realized that just as my regard for her grew with every word I read, hers for me would surely diminish in far greater proportion if she ever found out what I had done. Knowing her now, even so slightly, only makes what I did seem more horrible. I’ve paid a high price for knowledge that should have been earned not stolen. It’s a bad bargain, and one from which I can’t see an escape. Like all good traps, climbing in was easy, getting out might prove to be impossible.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 95)
“You know who is a good guy?” my mother asks me over oatmeal, in a tone suggesting we’ve just been talking about who’s not a good guy, which we haven’t. “No.” “Thom Yorke. He is a truly good guy.” Radiohead’s singer, songwriter. The unnatural interest isn’t going away. “What makes you think that?” “Because he’s passionate, Dan; he cares passionately about things. You just have to see him performing to see it. He looks like he’s going to burst every blood vessel in his head…” “What’s so good about that?” “He’s also an environmental activists. He cares about climate change. He went to Copenhagen Summit, for god’s sake! He’s helping the planet.” “Okay.” I’m putting my lunch together. I’ve got to get out of here. “And he’s around my age, did you know that?” “No.” “Yep. So, why didn’t I end up with him, instead of your father?” Who knows the right answer to that one? Er—you live on different continents…? You don’t know him…? He’s short and you’re tall…? I don’t point out that I’m the result of her breeding with her reject husband. I don’t feel like much of a consolation.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 96)
Revisiting the list: 1. Kiss Estelle. Okay at least I’ve met her. She thinks I’m a creep. And that’s without her knowing I’ve read her diaries. Unless we somehow fall over, exactly aligned, lips to lips, and gravity causes the pressure, or we find ourselves in a darkened room and through a series of Shakespearean ID muddles she thinks she’s kissing someone else, I can’t see how this is ever going to happen.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 109) 
“Do you want to come to mine and see how she [Janie] goes [in the contest]?” Estelle asks. Do I? “I’ll get a DVD,” I say, trying to remind my heart that it’s a super-fit muscle and not a drum getting the crap beaten out of it.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 178)
I feel like a proper dick, but I can live with that. Embarrassment is one of my primary dispositions.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 186)
I want to be good, but good is a slippery customer. I decide to settle for being loyal to my friends. Does this make me a pathetic pushover? Good or bad? Right or wrong? Who knows?
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 198)
A change is as good as a holiday.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 204)
She’s good. Are all girls natural psychologists? Everything she says lightens my load of worry bricks.
-Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things p 213)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Six-Impossible-Things-Fiona-Wood/dp/0316299413/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483978020&sr=1-1&keywords=six+impossible+things

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