THE UNTELLING & UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS: Two Books with Main Characters that Deserve Pitying for Their Less than Honest PersonalitiesBy Lee Peoples | September 9th, 2011 | Category: Book Reviews, Fiction, Non-Fiction | No Comments »
Lately it seems I have a run on unsympathetic characters. Two books I’ve read recently—one fiction and one non-fiction—have main characters that deserve pitying for their less than honest personalities.
Ariadne in The Untelling, a novel by Tayari Jones, ruins her chance at happiness by withholding secrets from those close to her, especially her fiancé, who makes decisions based on Ariadne’s “untelling”—not telling him information about herself which could change the future for both of them. Ariadne, believing at one point she is pregnant, discovers it is just a coincidence when she learns later she is a victim of premature menopause and will never be able to get pregnant and have children of her own. I sympathize with the fact that at the young age of ten she suffers the loss of her father and a younger sister and is raised by a mother who seems to put her needs before those of Aria and her sister Hermione, who is five years older than she. But she is such a weak person. Even at the age of ten, when she is trapped in the car with her dying father, she is too cowardly to respond to him as he, concerned about her in the back seat trapped, tries to talk to her. Now as a grown woman, she finds herself in a situation she should, of course, share with the man she’s engaged to marry. Fearing Dwayne will leave her when he learns of her situation, she misses every opportunity to tell him the truth. Thus, his hopes of a happy, complete life with her become a lie itself; and what kind of future do two people have together if they cannot tell each other the truth?
Another characteristic of her is her selfishness. Aria has more going for herself than she deserves: a sister who loves her and who is willing to do anything for her; a mother who for fifteen years believed she killed her own child in the automobile accident: “I didn’t mean to hurt her.” Untelling . . . a story of withholding the truth and its consequences.
Portia de Rossi
Unbearable Lightness is a memoir by Portia de Rossi, an Australian-born actress best known for her roles in the television series Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted. She changed her name from Amanda Rogers when she was twelve years old. Having battled with her weight from a young age, she tells her “story of loss and gain.” Instead of being honest with herself and acknowledging she has a problem, she chooses to lie to herself in ways that eventually put not only her health at risk but also any true relationships she has any hopes of forging. In addition to her weight problem, she is also less than honest about her sexuality. Her motto was “. . . when attacked, defend by lying.”
Reading Portia’s story, I found myself sympathizing with people who battle with their weight gain problems, perceiving themselves too heavy. It is an illness that leads them to this perception when anorexia and bulimia are involved. They perceive themselves as fat when they are really skin and bones. Finally, down to 82 pounds, Portia collapses on the set of a movie in which she is appearing. It is only then she faces the truth of her situation: she has a problem. Until now, she has counted calories, binged and purged, and fanatically worked out and run. Friends and family have tried to help her, but it is not until now that she believes she might have gone too far. She is diagnosed with osteoporosis, cirrhosis, and lupus; and it is only now that she begins to fight back at the voice in her head that tells her she’s fat.
In spite of the unsympathetic characters—up to a point—I found both of these books well written and quite interesting reading.