Friday, February 23, 2007

"The List" by Tara Ison - A Review

Why are two people who are so obviously mismatched compelled to be together? Reason dictates that if you are miserable together, you should be able to part ways, never to look back. What mysterious force draws us back and binds us to each other? What makes us remember the most obscure detail (a gesture, a scent) and turns it into a reason to stay? And should these little reasons be enough? The List, by Tara Ison, explores these excruciating puzzles within a tumultuous relationship.

Isabel and Al are as incompatible as couples get. One is driven and high-strung while the other basks in his slacker life-style. They can never seem to keep their relationship going for long, and yet can not resist the urge to reunite. Does the need to hang on to each other come from the fear of missing out on experiences left unshared? Isabel and Al set off to find out with unexpected, and often undesirable, results.

So much rang true in this story. Jealousy, anger, affection, desperation, lust, and memory whirlpool around this couple as they search for closure before moving on from their emotionally violent love. We watch them fight. We watch them profoundly misunderstand each other. We wonder how two people can ever come together in midst of all that is hurtfully said, and all that is felt and never said at all. And yet, when we are given a glimpse inside their heads and shown moments of tenderness and wonder, we understand why these two persist in hanging on.

In reading The List, I found myself torn, like the characters, not knowing whether to root for separation or reconciliation. Like most really remarkable books, this one gave me insight into myself and my own stormy relationships. Being able to observe this familiar couple was a strange, sometimes painful experience. I would guess the vast majority adults have been through a relationship of this ilk. The List is a wonderful sympathetic novel for all of us who have ever questioned ourselves in terms of our emotional bonds, our fears, and our choices.

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