Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné was originally written in French and has just recently been translated in to English for a new release. When I first started reading the novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it quickly gripped me and had me hooked to find out what would happen to the young narrator.
The narrator, a young girl who we never learn the name of, lives with her mother, father, and younger brother. Her mother is quiet and unassuming – she describes her as an “amoeba” who is just sort of there. Why? Because her father is abrasive, abusive, and could be set off in to a violent rage at any given moment. As a young girl, the narrator doesn’t understand why her mother just…exists and goes through the motions of life, but at the same time understands the fear caused by her father.
She feels a responsibility to take care of and save her little brother, especially after a horrific tragedy they witness towards the beginning of the book involving the local ice cream man. From that point on, we follow the narrator over the course of a few years as she does everything she can to survive in this house where she’s constantly walking on egg shells.
The story is really interesting because the narrator is living this really sad and real life, but she has this unrealistic fantasy of saving her life and her brother’s life by going back in time. She takes her love for science and her desire/need to save her brother from seeing messed up things and following in their father’s footsteps to come up with the idea to make a time machine a la Back to the Future. She just feels like if she could just go back to before the tragic accident, she could prevent so much of the events that happened after. Of course, this isn’t a science fiction story so it’s not a spoiler to tell you that she doesn’t actually create a time traveling DeLorean. However, over time she learns that she doesn’t need to travel back in time to prevent her life from being more messed up than it is – she can take control of her life now and survive.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away so I won’t go in to detail about what kind of horrible things she goes through and witnesses over the years, but I will say that Dieudonné does a brilliant job of creating a character that is really realistic. I mean, I hope I never come across someone who lives this kind of life (because that would be devastating), but at the same time there is something incredible real and human about the narrator. It’s like as sad as her life is, you can see it being something people really go through and experience in real life.
I highly recommend Real Life. I think it will definitely keep you hooked and wanting to read to see what will happen to the narrator.
*This book was sent to me complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.*