4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Jeannine Ouellette’s The Part That Burns is a heart-grabbing memoir. It’s like being teleported to another time and another place.
Ouellette writes about her family life growing up, motherhood, and her trauma recovery. The events are commonplace occurrences, mostly. For example, being punished for chores, the many home addresses, and the family pets. She describes the year she lived with her biological father and his wife (who seemed to hold something against Ouellette). She gives snippets of the sexual abuse by her stepfather at an early age. Naturally, this is a sensitive spot for her; but, she shares it with her readers—nonetheless. I applaud her determination and strength.
The author presents her life in a non-linear fashion, which makes it even more gripping. For example, the book begins with an adult memory before rewinding to her toddler years. At some point, the timeline crisscrosses from pubescence age, back to childhood, and forward to her college days. There is always an anchor point around which the story revolves, such as the family dogs and the tumbleweeds. Each anchor seems to mirror the family dynamics and has shaman-like connections to the events. For example, the family dogs (almost like spirit animals) sponge up the emotional tension indiscriminately. I relished this mirrored symbolism of the author's subconscious mind.
Whether it is her toe-pajama or the soggy basement carpet, Ouellette has an amazingly detailed memory. She reminisces fondly about her childhood friends and teachers. However, it is the emotions associated with those moments that leave a lasting impression.
I absolutely loved the intense voice and tone bringing the author’s past selves alive; additionally, they showed which stage of her life is being presented. Four-year-old Ouellette speaks in a perfect preschooler lingo; whereas, her teenage self is more grounded in her thoughts.
Consequently, I rate The Part That Burns 4 out of 4 stars. Ouellette’s style is expressive, and her story is evocative. She gives the reader a sentiment close to being reincarnated multiple times. Since I have no bones to pick with this book, a lower rating is unnecessary. Moreover, it seems exceptionally well-edited.
It is a must-read for those who enjoy stories with a strong voice. I also recommend it to anyone looking for a book based on true family dramas. There is some description of pedophilia and sexual abuse; therefore, I caution sensitive readers. I do not recommend it to readers who dislike the non-linear flow in the timeline—but, I encourage them to try it.
The Part That Burns
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon