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Still Life with Tornado by A. S. King

Still Life with Tornado

by A. S. King

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A.S. King's characters always feel so real to me, and Sarah was no exception. Her brother and mom are also fleshed out beautifully in this story about a family with secrets and questions about what is essential for living an authentic life. It reminded me of a modern day Catcher in the Rye, as Sarah is obsessed with originality: being original, experiencing original, and perhaps producing art as a result. She's avoiding school day after day, and her parents don't know how to help her. They have their own problems, and Sarah's older brother Bruce is no longer around to help her navigate home life. As she often does, King includes a bit of surrealism with a twist that adds some mystery and also advances the story - I loved it. This is another win for A.S. King, one of my favorite authors. ( )
  readerspeak | Jul 14, 2017 |
16-year-old Sarah, a gifted artist, suddenly finds herself unable to draw her own hand. This stalemate coincides with the sudden appearance of her other selves -- as a 10-year-old and as a young adult. Are these schizophrenic visions or some time-tripping manifestations? Even Sarah is unsure. In the end, what matters is her triumph over a dysfunctional family and her ability to reach out to those who can help -- especially, but not exclusively. her estranged and long-absent brother. In truth, this reader had trouble getting through this book and skipped to the end. The parents' fights are cringe-worthy, as is Sarah's inability to maintain a normal schedule (she drops out of school). If there's a happy ending to Sarah's tale it seemed too little and too late. ( )
  mjspear | May 30, 2017 |
Like King's other novels, Still Life With Tornado takes place in the real world with a magical realist twist. The main character, sixteen-year-old Sarah, stops going to school and stops making art but won't tell anyone why. She wanders the city, seeking the original but finding most things unoriginal. Her parents work opposite shifts and rarely see each other. Something happened six years ago when the family took a vacation to Mexico, but Sarah can't or won't remember what it was, only that the trip is the last time she saw her older brother, Bruce.

Then, ten-year-old Sarah appears. And 23-year-old Sarah. And 40-year-old Sarah. Together, the past and future Sarahs help the present Sarah confront the traumatic events she's experienced and, together with her mother and her brother, move past them.

I've loved most of A.S. King's books except for her most recent, I Crawl Through It, so my expectations for Still Life With Tornado were tempered, but I loved it.


My hands ran out of art. (10)

I'm lying to myself but I don't know why. (40)

Subway stations are mysterious from street level. It's as if thousands of people just disappear down there every day. I decide that subway stations are like portals. (119)

I have no idea what I'm doing and I don't know why I'm doing it. (123)

There is a thin membrane between that time and this time - so thin I can't see it, but it's here. (149)

I'm sixteen years old and this is the main idea the adults in my life have given me....The older people get, the less they can do about things. They seem to be stuck. (173)

My emotions are smaller than they should be. I'm the one who should be angry, but I'm cranky or upset. As if a sixteen-year-old can't be angry for real. (229)

The absence of violence is not love. (257)

Are they really me or are they the me I think I'll be? I don't think I'll ever know the answer to this. Not until it happens. (285)

History is in the room with us. You absorb it even if it's not happening right in front of you. You absorb the feeling of it. It's there even though it's not there. (287)

I am left with myself - I can't get away from her.
I tell her: Maybe if you take off all that armor, you won't feel so heavy. (295) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 12, 2017 |
A really hard read. Excellent first person narrative, coming of age mysterious reveal kind of story. But difficult emotionally. ( )
  kallai7 | Mar 23, 2017 |
This book received rave reviews from a number of sources but it left me with a sense of bafflement why.

Sixteen-year old Sarah is bright and artistic. With the end of the school year close, she is asked to draw and pear and draws a blank as to where to begin. It's as if all of her talent had blinked out. At the same time she meets a 10-year old version of herself, from when her family went on vacation in Mexico. Something happened on that trip that caused her then 19-year old brother to leave home forever. As Sarah shuts out school and her life, she tries to piece together what happened. She shadows a homeless man trying to fathom his story. As time passes she meets her 23-year old and 40-year old selves who refuse to directly tell her what happened on that trip.

My confusion started when her mother sees her 10-year old self and invites her to dinner. So, is the story becoming a fantasy? What Sarah eventually learns is that her life up to that fateful day involved events circling around her (like a tornado) which eventually forms her current self.

The beginning of the story started very slowly but I persevered curious as to what the big secret was.

Another part of the story involved an art project she was particularly proud of and the relationship between her art teach and another student. I did not feel that conclusion was very satisfactory.

So obviously I could never be a professional reviewer since I don't feel this was a significant enough story to rate such high praise. ( )
  mamzel | Feb 2, 2017 |
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