Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: The Cure for Dreaming

Cat Winters. New York: Amulet Books, 2014.  352 pp.
Rating: Striking 
"Think of your future sons and daughters. Think how much better your childhood would have been if your mother had accepted her place in the world and ignored her selfish dreams." (60)
Oh, the cover, the cover! (squeals loudly) Love, love, love! I'm lucky to have scored a poster of the cover during TCfD Book Tour. The imagery is fantastic! The cover sets the atmosphere of what lies between the pages. The cumbersome garments, the strings tied around Olivia's skirt, and the buttons of her boots represent the bondage, the stagnant station of womanhood—the result of being born of the fairer sex. 
Where is a woman's place? Is it inside or outside the home? Is it both? What is a woman's role in the world and who decides her fate? 

Born in the early 1950's, my father was a product of his time. By the time I came along at the tail-end of the 70's, he still held the belief that women and children were to be seen and not heard. Much to my father's chagrin, his attitude, of course, didn't bode well with his opinionated wife and oldest daughter. In his mind, he was going to lecture our opinions out of us until we came around to his way of thinking. Although in my younger years I was shy, I was never afraid to express my thoughts and feelings to my father. I refused to be silenced. Like me, Olivia Mead, refused to allow anyone to control her thoughts. 

As soon as I read the first line, I was transported back in time to Oregon at the turn of the twentieth-century. Winter's writing is a delight to the senses. Not only could I see, hear, smell, and feel Winter's words, I could taste them as well. "Even the cloud of warring perfumes hanging over the audience smelled overcooked, like toast gone crisp and black."

  I loved the way she described the suffragists Olivia sees at a restaurant.
"Lanterns switched on inside all the women's bodies. Their hair glistened with breathtaking luminescencea light that reflected off the surrounding wood. Their skin flushed with a brilliance that rivaled our candle's flame. I sucked in my breath and watched in awe as they glowed—literally glowed—before my eyes" (146-147).
I felt a kinship with Olivia. Every time her father demanded she accept her place in the world, I boiled inside. Each time her father invalidated her feelings or opinions, I burned even more. We should all have the freedom to express our views, our individualityourselves. 
"...Please don't pay him to take away my thoughts" (61). 
Olivia saw the world for its possibilities, while her father saw if for what it was or rather what it had been made to be by years of patriarchal dominance. 

"Teach her to accept the world the way it truly is," begged Father in a voice that trembled and cracked. "Make her clearly understand the roles of men and women." "And tell her to say 'All is well' instead of arguing whenever she's angry. Please. Her rebelliousness has got to be removed if she's going to survive" (62).

The literary allusions to  The Yellow WallpaperThe Awakening, and Mary Wollstonecraft brought back enjoyable memories of the Women's Lit class and the one month of a Southern Women's Lit course I took a few years back. I appreciated the lack of a love triangle, although there was a hint of one and I was screaming, "Cat, no! Please, no." Happy to say it was just a false alarm. Though I value and highly esteem stand-alone novels in this trilogy-driven climate of late, I want more Olivia and Henry. I'm not seeking a sequel per se, but more of a companion novel. 

During Olivia's visit to her father at his dental office, images of Steve Martin in the movie Little Shop of Horrors popped into my mind. I felt they are an appropriate depiction of Olivia's maniacal father.

Although this book is about voice, agency, and a woman's right to vote, it is much more than that. At its core, The Cure for Dreaming is a representation of all marginalized people who are silenced because they are considered inferior and the controlling parties who are terrified of society's shift if these supposedly "inferior" people ever reclaimed their power.

Favorite Quotes
"You see, Mademoiselle Mead?" He showed me the dark recesses of the hat's interior. At the very bottom lay a mirror that reflected my toothless mouth with blood spilling down to my chin., "If you stay with your father, he'll take it all away" (94).

"I'm 'A Responsible Woman,' "..."I'm the person who wrote that letter to Judge Acklen in Saturday's paper, and I'm more of a suffragist now than when you first hired Henry to control me. You struck a match and lit a fire" (320).

If you enjoyed The Cure for Dreaming, I recommend 
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.

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