“The Red Car” is an incredibly composed novel by Marcy Dermansky which reads like a lengthy interior monologue. It narrates the story of Leah, a writer in her thirties, who has recently lost an old friend and boss Judy. During the course of novel, we follow Leah’s odd journey from New York to San Francisco to attend Judy’s funeral. Her unplanned trip results in getting reacquainted with a life she had long left behind. People and places from her past sprout up, making Leah question all the decisions she has made to end up in a loveless, abusive marriage, stuck with a deadbeat career.
Judy also happened to leave Leah her red car, which the latter always despised, along with some money and a painting. Acquirement of these material possessions might not be Leah’s priority in any regard, but the trip undertaken and its eventual repercussions make the gist of this novel. The story is mounted with themes of self-actualization, alienation and womanhood.
Leah in no way conforms to the archetypal protagonist, her actions and submissiveness can be quite frustrating at times. But the author’s intention in portrayal of Leah was not meant to be viewed in either a positive or negative light. Leah just is. Human, period. Her insecurities, fears and indecisiveness often leave her in shambles. From a crumbling marriage to overthinking lost opportunities, from settling for mediocrity to looking for signs to pursue change or success, Leah epitomises the commonplace woman. In reading Leah, a part of reader is lodged in printed words and it seems like one is reading about oneself in Leah.
The narrative style is terse and compact, so much so that the entire novel can be read in one sitting. We follow Leah in and out of situations that she is put in, mostly coerced on her by others. Her acquiescent nature justifies many of the events which may seem coincidental at first, but are warranted given the circumstances. There is an element of surrealism in Judy’s bizarre voice from the beyond, guiding Leah through emotional tribulations and encounters.
Interspersed with sardonic humour and solipsism “The Red Car” proves to be an inviting and strange read. Suspension of disbelief to some degree brings about excitement and insight. Marcy Dermansky’s minimalist narrative makes this a remarkable book.
- My eyes glazed over when I tried
- Kant, Nietzsche. I couldn’t read any of it. The texts were abstract and filled me with dread
- I had moved cross-country on a whim, far from friends and family, and often I felt unsure of myself, the space I occupied in the world
- That was how I felt about pretty much everybody in my office. That they were all resigned to mediocrity. And who was I, after all, to want so much more?
- That was something I had discovered once I married Hans. Every night, he wanted to eat dinner. He wanted to know what I wanted for dinner. He wanted to know who was going to shop for dinner. He wanted to know what we wanted to watch when eating dinner.
- Lately, I felt like I couldn’t do anything, even though Hans constantly told me otherwise
- I was not one to see ghosts and I did not think Judy was the type to be a ghost
- It occurred to me again that I had so little experience with death. Thinking that was a horrible thought, a little bit like Jinx, because now that I had thought it, perhaps I had willed someone I knew to die
- I was not sure, actually, that I wanted to read these pages. I wrote journal pages just to write them, never to revisit
- He was amused by me, he always had been
- Was I still angry with him? That seemed silly. It was so long ago. He did not exist for me. He was not even a part of my thoughts.
- I could not remember how Hans and I decided to get married. There wasn’t a moment. There was a realization
- It made sense, that success would make you arrogant. I would like that for myself, a degree of arrogance
- It was clear to me, right away, that the waiter was in love with her. It made sense. I was a little bit in love with her. Three
- There were seventeen emails in my inbox from Hans. Seventeen was an ugly number. A prime number. It made me uncomfortable. It felt unlucky. I did not read them. I did not delete them either
- Even if he was heartbroken until the end of time, he wouldn’t have called her that. He would have treasured the idea of Yumiko.