Indelicacy

I recently finished reading Indelicacy, Amina Cain's first novel, on a flight. This concise 158-page story set a soothing atmosphere as I watched the sunlight glide across the opened book on my tray table. I would read and glance at the snow covered mountaintops peeking out from between fluffy white clouds outside the window. Reading slowly, I experienced the narrator's daydreams alongside her. My eyelids would grow heavy and I would fall asleep. A sudden jolt or the bright light on my temple would wake me, and I would take a sip of cranberry juice and drift where I left off. 

***

Set in ambiguous time, Victorian, post war, or an eerie relatable today, this novel holds great substance and depth. The narrator, Vitรณria, is a young woman who works as a cleaner in a museum and feels compelled to write about unreachable dreams she sees in various paintings. She commiserates with her coworker and only friend, Antoinette, both scraping by and fantasizing about the grandeur of material wealth. The narrator is swept away, seemingly overnight, into a life of luxury as she is approached by a rich man browsing the art galleries who marries her for reasons unknown. 

The beautiful silk dresses she admired through shop windows, extravagant meals at fancy restaurants, the ballet, an ocean once seen only in paintings, transformed from a dream out of reach to a reality for the taking. The narrator's new acquired wealth opened physical doors she never thought possible, but in turn closed doors on her authentic self. Being rich made her selfish and all consuming. There is a scene on page 90, where her husband suggests she try smoking hashish after discovering her joyfully drunk for the first time. Her immediate reaction is to ask when, "how indelicate" she observes. In all her waking dreams come true, she becomes self absorbed and lonely.

***

The passenger beside me watched a film on his tablet, a couple and two sons sat at a patio table outside of a mountaintop resort. The mother, a small brunette who I recognized as the actress who played Elaine in Seinfeld, puts her arms around her boys and screams as an avalanche comes tumbling down a cliff and buries the resort under an icy white wave. The father, played by Will Ferrell, instinctively runs inside the building to save himself. The wife and kids, spitting out snow in the proceeding scene, are shaken and can never forgive him for choosing self preservation over his family. 

***

An avalanche comes crashing down, revealing a man's true motivation. Likewise, money gives the narrator of Indelicacy the opportunity to materialize her dreams at a cost. She loses herself and longs for her former life, where she was poor but full of dreams to inspire her writing. She becomes envious of her friend, Antoinette, who thrives in a simple life in love. She loses interest in her loveless marriage. She stops devouring meat "like a pig" and abandons lemonade and blueberry pie, craving mint tea and biscuits. This story is a remarkable study of class and power. What struck me the most is how the narrator grows to feel entitled to her wealth, which ultimately tears her further away from herself. 


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