Title: A String of Paper Suns
Author: Bridget Siljander
“This was not the life I had imagined for my beautiful daughter, but I would fight for her. My car was a big junker, but I would upgrade it, and move out into my own apartment, and go back to college, and keep going as far as I could. I would get past all this and follow through on my promise to give her everything.”
A String of Paper Suns in an “experimental memoir” of the author’s life and her experiences growing up in a staunchly religious environment. Growing up so secluded and in such a strict environment meant that when she tries to integrate with normal society, she does so in an explosive and detrimental way. Bridget Siljander’s experience of the world outside of her parent’s community was so drastically different, that it hit her a little hard. She endures abuse from the people around her, and after falling pregnant and going into early labour, discovers that her daughter is disabled and has cerebral palsy. Determined to give her daughter a better life than she had, Bridget endeavours to find a greater life for them both.
I liked the honesty of Siljander’s writing; she leaves nothing to the imagination, and although some of it is quite difficult to read, it made the overall experience feel more truthful, and I imagine it helped her convey the story in a way she thought was best. The more graphic and abusive parts of the storyline made me feel sympathy for Bridget, which helped keep me engaged, because I was rooting for her success.
The love between her and her daughter was evident, and even as a reader who is not a parent, it was evident how their bond was unbreakable. I also liked how the narrative skipped between the present day and her childhood growing up, until they eventually merged into the same person. I think this helped keep the narrative fast-paced, and it was interesting to see both points of view – especially after she had gained some perspective on her earlier actions.
I do think that the dialogue was a little jarring; although the book is about the author’s life, so obviously she can’t make up what people said, I doubt she would’ve had a word-for-word account of what everyone said at any given moment, so I assume she embellished some of it a little, and unfortunately that meant that some of it just didn’t sound authentic.
Overall, I really enjoyed how different this book was. The way that Siljander laid everything bare made the narrative all the more raw and emotive – throughout I really felt sympathy for her situation, and I found the whole thing very compelling. I do think it could do with some refining – especially regarding the dialogue – but all in all it was an enjoyable book. Plus, as a reader, luckily, I didn’t have many ways I could empathise with her, but I imagine, that for someone who could, this read would feel particularly comforting and important.