Hap and Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders
Bellevue Literary Press: 1/9/18
eBook review copy: 288 pages
Hap and Hazard and the End of the World by Diane DeSanders is about a young girl with a dysfunctional family living in Dallas, Texas, after WWII.
An unnamed child is the narrator of these short interconnected sketches.
She misses the time when she was the only child living with her mother
while her father was away, in the War. Now her father is always angry,
easily provoked into rages, and is in constant pain from his wounded,
deformed feet. He likes to have everything a certain way, or he will fly
into a violent temper tantrum. Her mother seems preoccupied and is
often sad now. she is no longer the fun, carefree mother she used to be.
She is busy with social events. She also cares more about the two new
babies now and our narrator is left to deal with her questions on her
own. And she has many questions that adults don't seem to want to
answer, like is Santa real?
There are several heart breaking, poignant moments when you read this,
as an adult, and see how the anger and complexities of her parent's
relationship is deeply affecting this young girl. It also captures a
time in history, America after WWII. The questions the girl has are
question most children have. She struggles with school and making
friends. She's trying to make sense of her world and some of the
problems she has that she can't talk to anyone about. Her father, due to
his injuries, is constantly described as clump-CLUMPing here and there,
knocking things over or off tables, in an angry reaction, while her
mother is tense, waiting for the next explosion.
This well-written series of vignettes works on some levels, but not
completely for me. The sketches are presented in a nonlinear story
line, although they do
eventually culminate in a story and a more complete picture of a
traumatic event. Our narrator often repeats the same concerns and
questions, reflects on the same things, which makes sense for a child,
but I'm not sure that I want to read the same thing repeatedly as an
adult, especially with run-on sentences in a stream-of-consciousness
DeSanders does capture the questions and innocence of childhood in a
dysfunctional family, but misses the mark not naming her narrator. Names
are very important to children, especially their own names, even when
all they are thinking about is are the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus real?
Or why do you like the babies more than me? Or why do boys play the way
they do? Certainly a parent would call out her full name at least once
or twice. Sometimes an unnamed character is representative of an
every-man, a common character, but our narrator is a specific child, and
a child curious enough to want to know why she was named the name she
was and to let us know who she is.
My review copy was courtesy of Bellevue Literary Press.