The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
I bought this last weekend totally on whim. I had never heard of it or Vendela Vida (great name). I wasn’t particularly attracted to the cover. I really don’t know why I picked it up. I guess I was attracted to the notion of a character losing her passport in Casablanca and deciding to become someone else. (I know I wasn’t drawn to the second-person singular narration, but eventually I got over that.)
What did eventually pull me in was how perfectly Vida captured the lead up and immediate aftermath of the theft of the unnamed narrator’s backpack with every important bit of paper, identity, and money in it. I could feel the panic rising in me as she tried in vain to get her belongings back. (Maybe the second-person singular “You” do this and feel that set-up helps us feel more in her shoes.) The stuff of my nightmares, I kind of reveled in her descent into chaos and despair–both of which aren’t fully appreciated by those around her. How many times have you been in a tough spot and found yourself upset that the world continues despite your troubles and that most people–even the nice ones–do just enough to assure themselves that they have done as much as could be reasonably expected. Which is to say, not enough.
Once I knew she was in for a crap-storm of trouble I was fascinated to see where it would take her. An act of survival puts her on the wrong side of the law resulting in the inability to resolve her situation with the help of the U.S. Embassy. Then she lucks into a situation that seems to solve her problem at least in the short term, but then she is back in trouble, and eventually…well that’s left up to the reader to decide.
Against this travel nightmare backdrop we find our heroine’s current situation might be preferable to the one she left behind in Florida. Part of her home situation I guessed early on. Its eventual unveiling in the story made it seem a little more one dimensional than the character’s present predicament, but it certainly attested to motive and state of mind.
Not a perfect book, but kind of a thrilling, quick read. Plenty left to think about. Plenty to worry about. Plenty to be happy it wasn’t you about. There is a tiny part of me that is reminded, at least superficially, of The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark. Single woman, foreign adventure, caution and good sense thrown to the wind, something dark in the background. But don’t read too much into that I guess.