The night after I finished reading See How Small, I was haunted by the book, my dreams a struggle to bring justice to the girls and peace to the ones they left behind. I woke up and read the book again.
Why I love it
"We have always lived here, though we pretend we've just arrived."—I was drawn into Scott Blackwood's novel See How Small by the very first sentence: A simple sentence but one that promises mystery, obfuscation, surprise. Three young women are brutally murdered in a small town, and the duplicity is everywhere, in all the lies told by those left behind. Blackwood's precise and crystalline prose gave me immediate and intense entry into a world that should have horrified me, but instead surrounded me willingly in its layers of grief, anger, denial, and survival.
Not only is the atmosphere of horror and aftermath so perfectly evoked by Blackwood's writing, but so also is the atmosphere of the landscapes: the ice cream shop where the girls are killed; the small Texas town where they lived; the cold blight of winter in Chicago, sought out by one of the criminals in a final bid for absolution. Each character has his or her own atmosphere as well: smell of perfume, curve of ear or thigh, slap of flip-flops, or long braid down the back.
Every player in the tragedy is given a voice, including the three girls. The created symphony of disintegration—lives falling apart—and realignment—lives coming together again — is fiercely sad but also beautiful and moving. We are all struggling to make sense of life. A firefighter looks to the victims for guidance; a reporter synthesizes all the different stories she has covered to find meaning; a perpetrator agonizes over his responsibility.
The night after I finished reading See How Small, I was haunted by the book, my dreams a struggle to bring justice to the girls and peace to the ones they left behind. I woke up and read the book again, and found in my second reading, hints of reparation and resilience that I had not seen before. I joined in the characters' universal quest—how to live in a world that is often cruel and hard—and understood how it can be done. A lesson in survival, beautifully delivered.