Kay, 11-years-old, unwittingly opens Pandora’s Box in this surprising, raw, and gutsy novel about family—if Pandora’s Box contained suggestive (downright sexually derelict) emails between Kay’s father and his mistress.
The book opens with a slap in the face in the form of a letter: “I began sleeping with your husband last June.” The letter is the only hand-written item in the box of digital deviancy—sexual positions and raunchy reminiscences float on a sea of paper with words like cunt, fuck and pussy—addressed to Kay’s mother, Deborah.
The initial slap leads to a series of staggeringly differentiated stabs to the heart, jabs to the solar plexus, and kicks to the ribs for the characters and the reader. Pierpont’s brevity gives added force to each hit, while also doubling as breathing time.
Her earnest use of profanity in the email exchange allows readers to empathize with Deborah and feel horrified for Kay in a way that simply describing the content can’t. Pierpont’s use of language isn’t for shock-value, but for shock and value.
Each character’s voice has a similar tenor, perhaps as a result of the brevity and profanity, or because Pierpoint writes in third-person. Despite this sometimes hiccup, Pierpont’s plot tricks are more successful than not and her writing more nuanced than uneven.
Pierpont illustrates how a marriage is more than the sum of two people, and among the ten thousand things that make a marriage are also the ten thousand things that break them—which are also the pieces we use to put ourselves back together.
The plot and language are blunt, relentless, and ruthless—almost as relentless as Pierpont’s compassion, humor and insight. I read this in one day.