As a high school student, Shelby, survives a car crash that leaves her best friend, Helene, in a coma. Shelby, filled with guilt and self hatred, feels everyone in her town hates her, attempts suicide and ends up in a mental hospital where she suffers brutal abuse. Upon her release from the hospital, Shelby shaves her head and holes up in her parents’ basement, skipping college and avoiding everyone except her sweet, aimless high school friend, Ben, who gets her drugs. When Ben decides to get his act together and attend pharmacy school in NYC, Shelby takes to opportunity to get out of town. She takes a menial job at a pet shop and begins the long process of forgiving herself and reentering the world. She befriends a coworker and acts as a mentor to her unruly children. As the author says, “She tried to destroy herself, but she is still here.” Shelby is a survivor and her story is worth reading.
Hoffman’s trademark magical realism is found in this book, but to a lesser degree than some of her other books, such as Practical Magic. Shelby receives anonymous postcards that are left for her in the mailbox, with messages of encouragement: “Say something,” “Do something,” “Be something.” Helen, the high school friend in a coma, is purported to have healing powers, and her followers crowd her bedroom to just to touch her. Tattoos and signs also figure heavily in the plot, as does an angel. Enjoy!