Book Review: Rapture, Blister, Burn

November/December were combo book club months. Since some members were writing for NaNoWriMo, and the lead up to Christmas can be kinda crazy, we had a month and a half to read...a play! The reasoning behind the genre pick was that plays are short, perfect for limited timelines for everyone.

My choice was easy - I had borrowed a play to read for last month's women writers genre, but never got around to it. It was a perfect choice for our combo months' genre! And based on the synopsis, I'm pretty sure this play was written for me...

November/December 2013: Play

Rapture, Blister, Burn
By Gina Gionfriddo
139 pages

"So is the message that women are f*cked either way? You either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad?" (p. 36)

Catherine is an accomplished academic. Gwen is a married housewife with two children. Friends during their university days, they haven't talked in over a decade...something about Gwen stealing and marrying Catherine's boyfriend? These two women with opposite lives meet again when Catherine moves home to care for her aging mother. It's clear that both regret their chosen life path, and both want what each other have. The play takes us through what happens when both women cross over to the other side where the grass is greener - or is it? Mix in the unmotivated husband/ex-boyfriend and a firecracker of a babysitter, and you've got an honest take on gender roles and feminist ideals.

I haven't read a play since I was forced to analyze Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie in high school. Regardless of my historical distaste for the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this play, and devoured it in one sitting while on a plane from Edmonton to Winnipeg. Like Catherine, I constantly wonder if I've missed out on the best things in life by not getting married and having babies. I feel guilty, selfish, jealous, and a waste of a woman most times when I'm with mothers, who I have place on the pedestal of societal acceptance. I suppose the solution to all my problems is finding a husband who will take care of me and settling down with a kid or two (or at least that's what my mother's solution is).

This play proved to me I'm not wrong for feeling that way, but also that it's not right to assume mothers have it better than professional spinsters. Gionfriddo deftly paints a picture of both sides of the fence - using only dialogue and minimal stage directions. She has her characters essentially swap lives, and in the end we realize you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need. Mixed in there is a bunch of feminist theory, and though I'm not much of a feminist, nor do I know or necessarily care about theory, all concepts and ideas are completely accessible. Everything just made sense. Yeah it's a cliche, but this play spoke to me.

I would recommend this book to every women who has even wondered what if. Hopefully, like in Gionfriddo's play, your life works out how you need it to.