And Now You Can Go
New York: Anchor Books, 2003
What a life-affirming book!
Ellis, the protagonist in Vendela Vida's book, has a profoundly disturbing experience: a man grabs her in a park, telling her he is going to kill himself, and he does not want to go alone; he is taking her with him. Ellis, trying to convince him there is much to live for, recites poetry to him, since it is art and poetry that transform lives. After persuading the would-be killer and suicide to accompany her to a bookstore, he lets her go. Ellis, understandably shaken by the experience, stops functioning as she did before. She sees her attacker in all men. She gets episodes of excruciating psychic pain; her senses, especially smell, work on overload. Her relationships, with her mother, sister, friends, but especially her father, are all reexamined. But eventually, from her frozen state, come the glimmerings of understanding. After a mission trip accompanying her mother to the Philippines, she sees "mother's laughing – her mouth falling far open -- and Freddie's bouncing in her red sneakers... it's too much love to handle at once" (137).
The community is mobilized to find her attacker. By the time he is found by vigilantes, Ellis has moved on; she has "all forgiven him". Through her attack she is brought to an epiphany, to forgiveness. She can look at the men who have hurt her, by extension at all men, who have all hurt someone, and “ forgive each man as he entered the door to his home” (189). Vendela Vida has written a beautiful, wise book.