04 January 2011

Post 283: The Clearing

The Clearing by Heather Davis.  ISBN: 9780547263670 (ARC - published April 2010).

I am one of those people who enjoys detailed descriptions; not the ones that go overlong, but the ones that have just the right amount of balance and depth.  For instance, this description of a grocery store put me right into the scene:
"We entered the store, where the air conditioner was set to please a polar bear.  The scents of meat counter, bleachy disinfectant, freshly fried donuts, and overripe tomatoes hit my nose all at once.  It was almost too much to take in.  To top that, the place was packed with families with shopping carts full of groceries and dirty-faced toddlers.  The cashiers did swift business while chattering over a scratchy-sounding country song piped through the PA system."  Page 11.
Other than that last line, which is a bit awkward, this is a really great description.  Not only can we picture exactly where Amy is, but we can feel it.  There are context clues to indicate that Amy feels overwhelmed in this place, even though there are familiar sights and sounds associated with it.  She's not the only Amy who feels that way, and so this passage probably spoke to me more than it might another reader.

I hate shopping.  I hate shopping for food, for clothes, for just about anything.  I especially hate big chain stores that are designed to inundate your senses so you will: a) not take the time to make rational purchase decisions because you feel rushed or harried; b) spend as much time in the store as possible in the hopes that you will pick up additional purchases.  There mere idea of spending more than 30 minutes in a grocery store makes my head hurt, but because we have so many options and the store layouts are constantly changing and sometimes confusing, that is what happens in the bigger stores.

I can't go into a big store and spend more than five minutes there without getting this completely dazed look on my face.  There is something about the smell of the fried and/or rotisserie chickens from the deli counter permeating the store, the ubiquitous pop music, the constant dodging and maneuvering of shopping carts, the too bright lights, and the overwhelming selection of brands, portions, and pricing that just overloads my brain.  By the time I get to the cashier, I can barely respond to simple questions; sometimes I have to sit in my car for five minutes and let the silence sink in before I feel safe driving again.

Part of this is probably because I have an absolute loathing of shopping carts, mostly in the hands of other people.  I couldn't really tell you where this loathing came from.  It probably started when shopping with my mom and brother; my brother always insisted on pushing the cart.  I don't recall him ever purposely shoving the cart into me, although I imagined he at least threatened to do so, and in general he was not a very trustworthy person even at that young of an age.  Perhaps it's just me, but it seems once people get something like that in their hands they become irresponsible lunatics. It's as if all of a sudden they have become contestants on Supermarket Sweep, only the goal is not just to get through the supermarket as fast as possible, but also to mow down as many strangers as possible in between parking themselves in front of the exact brand of spaghetti sauce someone else wants while gabbing to their neighbor about Bob hitting himself with a hammer again or Jane's latest yeast infection.

This is why for the longest time I shopped at Aldi's, and will hopefully do so again when I finally hunt down that ever-elusive snipe known as a Job.  I may have paid more for certain things, and the selection wasn't great, but at least I could get in and out of there in a matter of minutes.  I could take my time deliberating about whether or not I wanted that can of biscuit dough, because I didn't fry all my brain cells three aisles down trying to figure out if I wanted wheat bread, whole grain wheat bread, wheat bread with riboflavin, or magical wheat bread made of pony spit and freshly squeezed rainbows guaranteed to cure cancer and AIDs and do your fucking laundry.

Magical bread, it's delicious and it will do your laundry.  PS: this is from Yakitate Japan, watch it, it's awesome.
In any case, I hate shopping and would rather not spend any more time at it than I have to.  It is not enjoyable for me, especially if I already feel rushed, to put myself in a situation where the atmosphere is designed to make me feel rushed.  This is why I also avoid eating at fast food places.  But that is another ramble, for another time.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free copy received from the publisher's booth at ALA 2010.
The quote was checked with a final copy via Google Books.

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