Okay. So I've had some time to let the effects of having read this book wear off a bit. I feel that I'm ready to talk about it without revealing my soul here. Excuse me if I'm long-winded. This book connected some life-dots for me, so y'all bear with me.
I've never read a novel that caused me to do so much self-reflection that I actually had a breakthrough...like a real life breakthrough...like the kind you could get from therapy or something. Actually, I might feel less weird about this whole thing if I could attribute such a huge life-altering enlightenment to therapy of some kind, but I've never done the therapy thing. Turns out all I needed was a little free time and about 336 pages of awesome fiction.
Everybody experiences things differently, so some of you might read, or have already read the book and be like, "what the hhyyell was HomeGirl smokin?'" I believe that every life experience is there to teach us something...every wack azz job, every wack azz family situation, every wack azz male of female who might disturb your peace, even your own wack azz ways...all there to bring lessons. Whether you get the lesson instantly, or 17 years after the fact, as in my case, hopefully you get it some way, at some point and you grow from it. But enough about me...
The Untelling is the story of Ariadne (not Adrian, that's not a typo), a southern black girl, born, raised and living in Atlanta. At first she's a little girl, brimming with the typical mind-wonderings and innocence of little girls (those are the best years), then she's a college student at Spellman and a post-graduate working girl dealing with life-long family issues, interesting and emotionally taxing job situations and a relationship with a good man (whom she seems to feel undeserving of) among other, way more serious things. I'm trying not to spoil the experience for any would-be readers, but if y'all want more details about what happens in the story, you can find it <<here>>.
Up to the very end of the book, the layers of each character are still being pulled back revealing more and explaining more about why they are the way they are. The character the reader might be inclined to hate, becomes sympathetic and quite impossible to have anything other than pity and hope for.
Digression: I think there's a quote or something that says, "hate cannot exist where there is knowledge and understanding" or something like that. I totally get that--it's so easy to see someone as a bitch or a bastard or a creep until you learn and understand what unfortunate background or unlucky choices or experiences made them that way. Bitch, bastard or creep they may be, but at least if you understand the root of the wackness, it'd be pretty difficult to have ill feelings towards them. I've always felt that way.
The meaning behind the title, The Untelling, is explained in a narrative by Ariadne at the end. I always look forward to mentions of the title in books I read. "The Untelling" is such an interesting phrase. Before Ariadne's narrative at the end, I felt like maybe Tayari titled the novel The Untelling because the whole back story is not told up front. By the end of the novel when every character has been fully revealed, it's like 'Oooh! Ok. That's what happened, now it all makes sense.' It's like the full story was told backwards. That's a huge part of what made this read so enjoyable.
Tayari Jone's first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is SO on my list.