Friday, January 5, 2007

Eat the Document

Spiotta, Dana. Eat the Document. New York: Scribner, 2006.

Reviewed by Rebecca Stuhr

Mary Whittaker has had to go underground after an anti-war action during the waning years of the Viet Nam war proves fatal. This means separating permanently from her lover, also involved in the action, her family, and all of her friends; it means changing her name and her history. Mary, with a new social security number, identity, and past, eventually marries and has a child. The novel follows her through the initial stages of her descent to anonymity, and then goes forward, 25 years later, to see Mary through the eyes of her 15-year-old son who is slowly catching on to bits of stories that don’t match up and a strange absence about his mother. Mary’s lover Bobby has become Nash. He runs a counter cultural bookshop that appeals to skate boarders, and young radicals. He continues to live by his ideals, but observing now more than acting. Mary and Bobby have been living near each other in the Pacific Northwest but without knowing it. This is not a love story, but an exploration of American culture, the different shapes of resistance, and most of all, the consequences of decisions and actions. In this particular case, the consequence is the loss of an entire past and a future that may lack joy and meaning. Spiotta’s characters are complex and her depiction of radical movements in the 70s and 90s vivid and convincing. Spiotta is also the author of Lightning Field (Scribner, 2002). Both titles are available at Burling Library.

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