When I first read a book by Beth Kephart, I wasn’t too keen on it. I did not get what all the fuss was about. Maybe I just wasn’t ready at the time or maybe it was the person I was back then. Now, though, after reading Kephart’s You Are My Only, I feel that I can confidentially say that I GET IT. I get what all of the fuss is about and why some people have really taken to this author’s work. While I might not have quickly whipped through You Are My Only, I read it at a middling pace, giving myself time to absorb the words and to let the imagery just kind of roll over me. Fortunately, I really, really, really gelled with You Are My Only and am going to recommend it to people who might not be into Kephart’s books quite yet.
You Are My Only by Beth Kephart follows dual point of views, alternating between Emmy Ranes, a very young mother and Sophie, a lonely home-schooled teenager. For some odd reason, when I picked this book up I somehow thought it was paranormal and involved vampires. I have no clue why. You guys, there is no paranormal. There are no vampires. This is very much a contemporary genre book. In Emmy’s storyline, she has gone upstairs to grab something for Baby, when she comes back, Baby has been stolen. On the search for Baby, Emmy is blamed and because she is so distraught, she is placed in a mental institution. Insult to injury you guys, insult to injury. Flash forward a few years later and we have Sophie’s storyline. Sophie is living with her mother who has bad knees. Her mother works as a waitress, yet she expects perfection out of Sophie. She home-schools Sophie and does not let her out of the house because of the Bad Thing. Of course, if you use that brain you have in your head, it’s likely you have figured out the plot twist based on this paragraph. That’s fine, what’s important is how we get to the twist and the emotional climax. ( Also, the word climax makes me feel gross, just saying).
Sophie is at the younger end of the teenage scale. She’s got an interesting character arc. At first glance, Sophie is submissive and quiet. She does exactly what her mother tells her to do. But then, she meets the boy next door, Joey, and his aunts, Miss Cloris and Miss Helen (awesome lesbians, FYI). They are a family where love and warmth is important. They place great value on Willa Cather and cookies. As Sophie keeps leaving the house to interact with the neighbors, she finds herself growing and opening up to the world. Sophie begins rebelling. As she spreads her wings, she learns some terrible truths, but oh you guys the way Kephart paints these truths are GENIUS. Like, all-caps genius.
As for Emmy, at first I was not too sure how to feel about her. She is clearly different from me. She married at nineteen because she did not have a lot of options. She does not present herself as calm, cool, and collected at all. She lets her emotions about Baby overwhelm her. She trusts the weirdest of strangers. Plus, she gets sent to the psych ward. Of course, this is awful, but I felt kind of uncomfortable reading her sections. Maybe what this says about me is that I do not have kids. I cannot fathom what it is like to lose your child. I have no clue what it is like to be in Emmy’s shoes. Not even a single inkling. Eventually though, Emmy began to grow on me. I began to hope that things would turn out alright for her. While I didn’t relate to her, I found myself interested in her.
Here is the thing, You Are My Only is sparse in it’s number of pages. Kephart packs in so much emotion in so few words in such a gorgeous style that the book is almost overwhelming. It staggered me, it really did. There’s something sort of intense about Kephart’s writing style. She puts these images in her book where you are like, yes I know exactly what that is but I never thought of it this way before. I don’t know you guys. Just get your hands on a copy of You Are My Only, it is really good and beautifully written and just full of heart.
Disclosure: Review Copy Obtained At BEA 2011 (Damn, I am terrible)
Other reviews of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart:
There’s A Book – “expresses something greater than simply “knowing” people”
The Perpetual Page Turner – “this book shines because of the writing”
Into The Hall Of Books – “beautifully crafted, well-paced, and nicely resolved”