Cruddy by Lynda Barry (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

Cruddy by Lynda Barry.The book starts with a suicide note, addressed to “Anyone Who Finds This.” The book, in fact, is a sort of extended suicide note; since she’s about to die, Roberta Rohbeson can finally tell the truth about that road trip with her father. She’s never told anyone before. Now she’s going to tell you.

Roberta is sixteen, living in “a cruddy rental house” with her mom and her sister. The book intersperses chapters detailing her sixteen-year-old life with descriptions of the fateful road trip five years earlier. There’s copious abuse and trauma in both narratives, but Roberta is a fighter. She can find a way out of any situation, however harrowing.

The book is hard to read at times, written in a trippy, adolescent style. The style fits the subject, but it’s still an acquired taste. Take this paragraph as example:

He looked very relaxed laying on his back in the straw. He seemed to be somewhere around our age, a little older maybe, and he was looking very much like a typical glue-sniffer dropout. The extreme relaxation of the guy was interesting to me. A very fat fly lifted itself and made a worn-out buzzing sound and flew a lopsided circle around his face. He followed it with his eyes and said, “Not now.”

The book is full of abuse in many forms: casual, intentional, emotional, homicidal. In the end, we’re led to believe, Roberta kills herself––that’s it. No one grows, nobody learns anything. Maybe that’s the point.