Wavy’s entry into the world was a precursor of things to come. She was born in the back seat of a stranger’s car, when her laboring mother was picked up while hitchhiking. Meth addict/dealing mother and father, Val and Liam Quinn, were the epitome of emotionally challenged, and as parents, they were so negligent that others often stepped into the parenting role. Liam’s various girlfriends, one of his employees (Kellen), and sometimes Val’s sister Brenda.
As well-meaning as Brenda might have been, she did all the wrong things, in my opinion, exacerbating an already tenuous situation.
Alternating narrators tell the tale of Wavy’s life, beginning in the 1970s. Set in Texas and Oklahoma, we are gifted with the life view of each character as each perspective shifted. We then add a few more pieces to the puzzle of all their lives.
Time moves forward, and we gradually see changes in Wavy, from the little girl who doesn’t seem to eat and hardly ever talks, into a burgeoning young woman who appears in many ways older than her teen years would suggest. Her small stature and frequent silences, however, are deceptively child-like.
The relationship between her and Kellen began serendipitously when his motorcycle crashed near her when she was star-gazing. Immediately they connected over their interest in the stars, and for Kellen, Wavy began to talk, to eat, and to realize that she liked being touched.
When the outside world sees what is going on between Wavy and Kellen, all hell breaks loose. No matter how you might feel about the relationship between the two of them, the fact that the author has been showing us the growing connection between them as a gradual and loving thing, you might find yourself saddened by what happens next.
In a story that spans the 1970s, the 1980s, and into the 1990s, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things kept me engaged and changed my perspective on events that would have been troubling in my professional life as a social worker. Was it possible that sometimes we might have to look at a situation and a relationship in ways not proscribed by our society? Is it possible that a relationship that might look “dirty” is anything but? I very happily kept reading until the very satisfying conclusion, rooting for the two of them.