The book begins with a mysterious question where the main character, Vivian Morris, who is now in her 90s, gets a letter from, we don’t know who, with a request: “Now that my mother is dead, I wonder if you would be comfortable to tell me what you were to my father?” The entire book is Vivian’s answer. It takes a long time to get there, but well worth the wait.
This book celebrates female desire and all of its muscular messiness. It’s imperfect and it’s beautiful.
In an interview about this book, Elizabeth Gilbert shared this message:
“Consent is not the last or only word when it comes to female sexuality. There is also such a thing as female desire.”
Consent can imply that a woman is passively waiting, being attractive, and then a man will come offering what he has and she says yes or no. However, when it comes to sexual desire, it doesn’t show up like that. There are seasons in a woman’s sexual desire where she is predator. When you see a woman standing in her full sexual power, laying claim to what she wants…it is magnetic. You see, without our desires we are not fully ourselves.
Vivian talks about her “darkness” (a place within her imagination so fathomlessly deep that the light of the real world could never touch her), her need for it to be satisfied, which is different than happiness. Her non-traditional life that she will no longer deny herself to experience.
Yet, this book is not just a book about desire, it is also a book about female friendship. The kind of friendship that transcends mishaps, or mis-takes.
“This is what I have found about life as I’ve gotten older. You start to lose people, Angela. It’s not that there’s ever a shortage of people, oh heavens no, it is merely that as the years pass, there comes to be a terrible shortage of your people, the ones who knew the people that you both loved. The ones who knew your whole history. Those people start to be plucked away by death and they are awfully hard to replace after they go. After a certain age, it can become difficult to make new friends. The world can become lonely and sparse, teeming though it may be with freshly minted young souls. I’m not sure whether you’ve had that feeling yet, but I’ve had it. And you may have that feeling someday.
All of this is why I want to end by saying that although you owe me nothing, and I expect nothing from you, you are precious to my heart nonetheless. And should you ever find that your world feels lonely and sparse and that you need a new friend, please remember that I am here. I don’t know how much longer I will be here of course, but as long as I remain on this earth, my dear Angela, I am yours.”
Truthfully, this book actually removed a layer of shame that was buried within me. I hope it does the same for you, if you choose to read it.