Book: Raveling

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Book:

Raveling

Author: Peter Moore Smith
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Publisher: Little Brown and Company

“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Yeats’s words seem fitting for the slowly disintegrating Airie family and their son Pilot, a schizophrenic. Twenty years ago, Pilot’s little sister, Fiona, disappeared. In the aftermath, the Airie family fell apart—”unraveled,” Pilot observes. Old sins have long shadows, and Pilot both welcomes and fears the darkness those shadows offer. His memories of Fiona’s disappearance haunt him, but they are also an anchor to a past that seems more authentic than the present.

Pilot’s schizophrenia is all the more…

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“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Yeats’s words seem fitting for the slowly disintegrating Airie family and their son Pilot, a schizophrenic. Twenty years ago, Pilot’s little sister, Fiona, disappeared. In the aftermath, the Airie family fell apart—”unraveled,” Pilot observes. Old sins have long shadows, and Pilot both welcomes and fears the darkness those shadows offer. His memories of Fiona’s disappearance haunt him, but they are also an anchor to a past that seems more authentic than the present.

Pilot’s schizophrenia is all the more poignant contrasted with the poise of his older brother Eric, a prominent neurosurgeon. Eric is the one who comes to his mother’s rescue when she is stranded on the highway, unable to see to drive home after Pilot’s attempt to help her devolves into a terrifying, emotional paralysis:

Did they know that things had become transparent again, clear as a blue sky seen through blue water? That I could actually see the cancer forming like a tulip bulb at the base of my mother’s optical nerve? I could look through the trees all the way to the highway, through her car, and through her hair and skin and cartilage and bone into the folds of tissue around her eyes, to see the muscles dilating, the tendrils of nerves and vessels of blood, and the radical cells dividing there, and dividing again.

Division also lies at the core of the relationship between Pilot and Eric. Drifting between past and present, the narrative reveals a long history of cruelty and abuse, which, after festering for years, erupts into what Eric’s therapist dryly terms “a major psychotic episode.” What could be crazier than accusing your brother of murdering your sister?Pilot’s struggle to remember the truth of his family’s history calls into question the very natures of truth, memory, individuality, and complicity.

The novel’s strength lies in the deftness with which author Peter Moore Smith captures Pilot’s schizophrenia. The reader follows Pilot in each unsteady attempt to negotiate the ever-fluctuating boundary between reality and illusion: “Eyes closed, I was in a bed upstairs, my arms under the covers so they wouldn’t float away. Outside the window a single branch was reaching toward the room, unfurling itself to tap against the glass, warning me.” Raveling weaves the fragile threads that bind families and selves into a tapestry that both cloaks its characters and leaves them starkly vulnerable. —Kelly Flynn

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