IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE by Michelle Morris

IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Though first-novelist Morris is identified as a psychologist who ""has worked extensively with child-abuse victims,"" this effortful, artsy evocation of an incest victim's tormented psyche is too elaborate and melodramatic to be plainly convincing. Motherless teenager Carla has been abused, sexually and otherwise, by her father for years--since she was five. Now, in an assortment of alternating narrative voices, she tells her story. In italics, adopting a heavily ironic and implausibly literary voice, she addresses her sleeping father as she prepares to shoot him: ""It is an age of computers, my father. And perhaps the slings and arrows of our outrageous relation to each other can be quantified. Thus somehow set to rights."" In a high-strung but slightly more straightforward style, she addresses her beloved teacher Jessie--describing her day-to-day life with slimy Father, revealing her consoling relationship with her ""Voices"" (puppets whom she treats as real), telling Of her growing attachment to boyfriend Dean (who tries to help her to run away). And, in a kind of run-on babytalk, she addresses her long-lost Mama, begging for help against the ""nightmonster"" and calling up fragments of early-childhood memories. Unfortunately, this trio of voices, though perhaps intended to suggest the dissociations caused by such a nightmarish childhood, doesn't add up to a believable character; the constant repetition--each of the father's gross abuses detailed three times, in varying styles--becomes a seamy drone; and the story's slim development (Carla's discovery of what-really-happened-to-her-mother) gets lost amid the verbiage. For child-abuse specialists, then, there may be some useful material here: the victim's feelings of worthlessness and impulse toward suicide, for instance, are vividly dramatized. But most readers will find this both too clinical and too pretentiously literary--without the consistent inner-viewpoint needed to fill out a grim, lurid case-history.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1982
Publisher: Tarcher--dist. by Houghton Mifflin