“And she’s so pretty cause she will never be…
She’s so pretty to me, to me, to me.
It doesn’t matter what everybody sees.” ~ Jude
I’m reading a novel called “My Grandfather’s Eyes.” I don’t know which page I’m on since it’s a Kindle book on my phone and the Kindle books don’t always show a page number. I don’t even know how many pages are in the book. I’m not at the very beginning but not quite to the middle. I know because of the virtual line showing reading progress.
What I read up until now is thoroughly beautiful. The main character, Alexandra or Alex, is something like a psychopath. She’s around thirty-two years old. Alex has no concern, love, affection, care, empathy, or any positive emotion for anyone in the world except for one person, her best friend Lizzy. She loves Elizabeth, or Lizzy, more than anything and anyone else in the entire world and would even die for her if she had to to save Liz’s life. They were best friends since Kindergarten and Alex was always in love with Lizzy but never acted on her romantic interest in her.
Alex was born with a facial deformity, a bump on her forehead and dark moles, some of which are hairy, and grow darker and bigger across the side of her face as the years go on. Alex’s dad took her when she was a little girl, to a cosmetic surgeon to have them removed but Alex refused. She has always loved her moles.
Even as a young woman in college, she cherishes her deformity, she thinks they add to her beauty. But it has always hurt her how most other people would react to her for her whole life, even her own family, her own mom. Many just stare while others say cruel things to and about her.
What I read until now leaves me to believe, for now(i think later she may go on a killing spree or something but not sure), that Alex is more indifferent to people than vicious or cruel, although she does think about and desire killing certain people and she murders her own husband who she was never in love with but he truly loved her. The two loves of her life have always been reading and Lizzy.
She doesn’t care about other people’s pain, she shows no empathy or concern when others come to her with problems or when she witnesses someone suffering. Sometimes she just doesn’t care and sometimes she actually takes pleasure in it. She’s somewhat sadistic. She has absolutely no regard for human life.
Except Liz’s life. She cries for her when she’s hurt or when she misses her.
Lizzy is a beautiful, thin girl, with long blonde hair, flawless in appearance except for one thing. In high school she made a mistake in chemistry class and burned her hand up her arm which caused severe damage and is now disfigured. She thinks it’s repulsive but Alex finds it beautiful in the same way she knows her own deformity is beautiful. Lizzy is aggressive and funny. She’s intelligent but doesn’t care to display her intelligence. She’s also a thief.
Alex’s facial deformity doesn’t and never has fazed Lizzy. And Lizzy defends Alex when people stare or say rude things. She even kisses Alex goodbye on her “ugliest” and biggest mole.
“As I try to read, there is one thought that overwhelms me: He did not look at my moles. I am sure of this. There is only one other person who does not see them. My Lizzy.” ~ Alex
This may just be the most beautiful line in the book. I just love how she says “does not see them” Instead of “does not look at them” or “does not have a problem with them…” It’s just they don’t see them. They look straight through and see her for her.
The book is Alex reminiscing and telling us about different stages of her life, flashing back and forth.
What I find beautiful is that the author shows how beauty can be found in ugly things or ugly things can be beautiful themselves. There is beauty in pain and darkness, in sadness, and struggles. Sometimes we can overlook “ugliness” and see the beauty in it or we can actually see “ugly” things, themselves, as beautiful. Maybe something is beautiful because it’s sad or dark or unusual or different.
She loves reading so much that her decision for which university to attend is based on the beautiful library.
“…the Gothic Hall complete with turrets and gargoyles – where I will study English Literature. It is ugly-beautiful and will suit me very well. A fitting place in which to study the works of great authors. I feel the hairs bristle on the back of my neck with the excitement it generates in me.” ~ Alex
It’s beautiful because it’s ugly. It’s dark and aggressive and enthralling.
And even though Alex is like a psycho, her self-love is so very beautiful to me. She’s extremely arrogant but also has genuine love for all that she is in and out. She embraces her ugliness and flaws and refuses to conceal them for what others think and say.
Some people mistake self-love as conceit or arrogance but this character, Alex, with both traits, arrogance and genuine self love, is an embodiment of the sharp difference. Arrogance isn’t love. Someone can be arrogant or act arrogant but have no true love for herself and someone can love herself and not be arrogant. Alex is both. She even admits that she “wears her arrogance like a badge.” But she genuinely appreciates her own physical features and her personality traits. She’s an intellectual with no patience for simple, less intelligent minds and trivial drama.
I also like how Alex isn’t a very beautiful character on the inside but there’s so much beauty to be seen in her anyway. The novel isn’t about a sweet, loving, innocent girl who lives a life of goodness but happens to have a physical deformity where the author plays on our empathy to overlook her physical ugliness but see straight through to her obviously beautiful loving heart of gold and love her anyway.
That would be easy.
This? This is challenging because beneath her physical deformity lies a deformed or ugly heart as well. But it’s impossible not to see incredible traits in her anyway. Like her self love even though she was tormented for being deformed her whole life, her indestructible love for her best friend that she would do anything for even if it puts her out, her passion for literature, the way she appreciates and basks in the simple joys of living like lakes and quietude, the way she bursts out laughing uncontrollably for no reason when she meets the man she’ll eventually marry, her intelligence, and dedication to her goals. We see her humanness as well as her monstrous side. And there are little bits of beauty scattered throughout.
I have felt guilt and various other emotions reading this book. Guilt for judging and guilt for adoring a psycho’s positive qualities and even some of her ugliness. I love when novels provoke uncomfortable as well as beautiful and positive emotions in me, when they force us to question ourselves in awkward ways. I don’t promote what she does but I can’t overlook her beautiful qualities.
It reminds me to be like that with real people who may not be my favorite, ones with qualities I don’t care much for. I don’t have to be their best friend or be head over heels in love with them but I can still work to see the beauty in them and appreciate it.
Here is a beautiful quote out of the book about her looking at herself in a mirror, by the main character, Alex:
“In the mirror, I see a woman sitting bolt upright in her chair, with her handbag on her lap. She has long mousy hair, parted in the middle, her scalp white in the harsh fluorescent light. There is a large, dark mass spreading across the side of her face. I think her elegantly middle-aged, sensuously beautiful. I cannot identify with her. I see her smile, first with her eyes, which remain young, and then with the whole of her face. We fuse together, and I feel an energy building inside me, so that my reflection seems to disturb the air in the room, like a breeze across the surface of a lake. It is a lake I have visited many times in my dreams. We are luminous and powerful.”
This is in a hospital after Alex’s husband dies. No one knows she murdered or tried to murder him. She planned to kill him but after she did, she wasn’t prepared for the feeling that would hit her, the reality of his death. She wanted him dead but after hearing those words, it was hard to accept and come to terms with the fact that her husband is dead, that she killed him. She wasn’t shattered and is ultimately happy with her choice to kill, but she felt awkward, uncomfortable at first. She started to dissociate.
Like, feeling as if one part of herself is no longer connected to another. Like her body and her mind or inner self, disconnect. Some people feel as if they leave their body when they dissociate, after a serious trauma like assault of some sort, for example.
People don’t choose true dissociation but this excerpt reminds me of how many of us often hold ourselves to greater standards than we hold others. We judge our bodies and self worth in ways we wouldn’t judge our sister or best friend. “I have rolls or stretch marks, or am not a size 2 or have scars or acne…or whatever…so I’m hideous, fat, worthless, no good, ugly, not beautiful….” But would you ever say or think that about someone close to you? Or even a stranger? Chances are, no! Try to look into a mirror and kind of dissociate, not like a mental illness or result of a traumatic experience but remain unbiased, not shadowed by self critical thoughts. Take a good look at yourself and pretend you aren’t you.
Look at your beauty with new eyes, with a stranger’s eyes. If you weren’t you and not so judgmental, if you weren’t brainwashed by the media or society’s concept of beautiful perfection, would you think you are ugly, horrible, not beautiful? Would you think you’re beautiful? Now take the beauty you see and feel and know, and become you again, the whole you, let you and the person in the mirror fuse together. Love one another as the whole that is you.
This book is already so thought-provoking and inspiring.
I read some reviews and I think there may be some violence later in the book, maybe violent sexual scenes. Sometimes I don’t read much about a book, reviews or even the basic description, before reading. I like to go into it completely unbiased, not knowing. Sometimes I read a few reviews and for this I did and a couple said something about there being some “uncalled for sexual violence” or something like that, in the book that does nothing for the story but be disturbing. I read so many books and reviews though that I don’t always remember which reviews are for which books. For all I know those reviews are for another book! I can tolerate extreme violence in books if the book is really good or has a deeper message other than just violence for thrill. It doesn’t thrill me.
I felt drawn to this book immediately but then read something that contributed to me deciding not to buy it. And I think it’s the reviews that said there’s uncalled for horrific violence. But then I bought it anyway because what I did read about it in other reviews, the love she has for her Lizzy is so beautiful and it pulled me in and I also love the title. Yes I do judge books by their covers. Lol And even if that’s true that there’s unnecessary violence later, I’m happy I did buy it because of the deep insights I have already come to know just by reading what I did. But I can’t actually recommend the book without knowing the rest, especially if it has scenes that can trigger distress in someone who may have experienced trauma of some sort. Empathy while reading a book is one thing for a person who never experienced serious trauma but for someone who has, it can be completely different, like the person is reliving it, the body can be like literally living it over, causing severe distress and pain. So I am careful recommending books without warnings.
“My moles continue to grow and darken. I take less care to hide the bump on my head, and I wonder whether my deformities will eventually take me over. I am impatient with them, wishing they would stabilize. I think I notice people staring more, and imagine they are whispering to each other but I decide that I will not try to hide myself away. It will be easier if the people who are alienated by such things have the chance to avoid me, and I reason that those who are indifferent to them will not care.” ~ Alex
I love this and completely agree. I would never want friends or people who like me only because they don’t know something about me that if they found out later they would reject me for it, whatever it may be. We don’t have to like everything about a person we like but we can accept, tolerate, or overlook it and love the person as a whole. I don’t necessarily want someone to like every single thing about me, like all of my opinions or anything, and I won’t conceal something just to have them like me or not reject me. It’s like an asshole repellent,if you show your ugliness or controversial views or something right off, you weed out the assholes and the true ones are still standing by your side. Or if you’re the asshole and people are going to reject you for it then they can back off and the ones who don’t mind asshole-ness will still be there.
I don’t always like people’s opinions but I often appreciate the courage it takes them to stand up for whatever it is and the passion that drives them.
I am what I am whether I conceal it or not and whether someone likes it or not. So why deny or repress it? Instead I will give people the chance to know me and embrace me or know me and reject me.
My love for fiction has deepened dramatically over the last year and one thing I love about it is how the novels can teach us even
deeper empathy and greater compassion and understanding for real people and real life situations. We can’t always see or know why people do the things they do and it can be easy to judge and direct hostility towards them without any ounce of empathy or understanding but in books, authors bring their characters alive, stripping them raw, so we can hear their every thought and know their motives and intentions, and we can then, have compassion even more and understanding for the characters. We can extend that to real people and situations.
Understanding and empathy do not necessarily entail or require encouragement of or promoting something. I can understand and be empathetic of a person doing something wrong or not good but not promote or encourage it. I love when authors challenge us. This author is clearly brilliant, not just in writing but her deep understanding of life.
The girl’s wedding day is on June 25th in the book and that’s today for real! Lol what a coincidence that I read that today!
Is that something only I would be thrilled over?
I hear that a lot “only you, Kim!” or “only you would think or notice that, only you would laugh at that…!”
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton