The blurb and empty seat on the cover warned me that Sarah Manguso’s very cold people would probably be a dark book, but that’s also what attracted me to this short novella. In a small New England town, buttoned up and demarcated between rich and poor, very cold people see a woman exploring her youth, raised by two people hopelessly ill-equipped for work.

I knew that children should ride bicycles for fun, and I dutifully played the role of a child having fun

Ruth’s father is an accountant and is despised by families who are safe in their beautifully maintained historic homes. Her mother is a housewife whose full-time job is to make ends meet. Nothing is new in her house, even the food has to be carefully selected and Ruth does not know what to do with the only new toy she has received. Meals with rich relatives of his mother are tense, the family is firmly called poor parent. Her parents often quarrel, both in a constant state of irritation, which turns into anger at the slightest opportunity. Affection is rare, and when it happens, it does not repeat itself, no matter how much Ruth begs for it. School provides a kind of respite with the opportunity to make friends, but it is not easy for Ruth. Over the years, Ruth begins to understand why her mother is the way she is and is looking for a way out for herself.

I remember the metallic smell that hung in the air before I fell. It pale sapphire on a clear morning. The cold feeling that he falls. The powder of the coldest days, too cold to Melt, cracks on the trunk

Manguso’s short story is written from Ruth’s point of view in fresh, sharp and clean prose, from which sometimes vivid descriptions with a touch of dead humor appear. It offers the reader a detachment from Ruth’s devastating account of her childhood, reflecting her own detachment as a child raised in a home where love and affection hardly exist. She must learn to relate to others; accepting her mother’s superior tone only brings her isolation. She attracts restless girls who are struggling with their own family problems. You might be wondering why I chose this joyless story where the mis-word shows up at every step, but the writing is extremely good. I wrote down quotes all the time. And it ends with hope. If it’s a heartwarming read, it’s best to look elsewhere, but if it’s a catchy piece of writing, Fearless in its approach to a subject that can sometimes be handled

awkwardly, I’d add it to your list.

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