Love hurts, there’s no getting around it. Ask any musician ever—hell, any person past puberty—and there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll be able to regale you with a tale of love’s brutality in some form or another. As so poignantly stated in the novel’s foreword, despite spending a good chunk of your life with a person, despite intertwining your social lives and day to day habits, oftentimes at the end of a relationship the experience is reduced to “a shoebox of mementos to be stashed away and forgotten.” Bleak? Yes. Accurate? Definitely.
I am awed by the strength it must have taken Natalye Chiloress to dredge up the memories of her past lovers—memories most people would prefer to keep buried. There’s something to be said about a person who can deal with their past in such a mature and level-headed manner. I mean, there’s a reason why burning an ex-partner’s possessions is such a cliché: because it happens more often than people want to admit. Working through your feelings is fucking terrifying so choosing a (literally) destructive option that provides a bit of instant gratification can be pretty damn appealing. Though I’ve never set an impassioned break up conflagration, I have been the “burned” and I’ve gotta say it’s really shitty from that side, too. So, to stare blatantly in the face of not one but ten ended “relationships” (that term is used for simplicity’s sake) takes more guts than I have at this point of my life.
Chiloress’s approach is intriguing: each chapter delineates a different man and each of the experiences with those men, in turn, begets its own playlist. The execution, however, missed the mark for me. There’s overlap in some of these relationships—attributed in this memoir to the regular habits within the San Francisco area dating scene. While I understand that real life events are rarely as neatly recorded and arranged as those in a novel, the lack of chronology within this memoir was puzzling at best and frustrating at worst. Without any specific major events, the ability to orient myself was stripped from me. If there had been mention of just Chiloress’s age during each chapter or approximate dates, for example, I would have been a lot less frustrated throughout. I wanted to follow Chiloress’s growth as a person, but that became difficult when I was unsure if the cringe-worthy decisions being made in later chapters actually happened before or after the earlier chapters. Further, the short length of each of the chapters, though concise in their approach, left me craving more detail to make sense of the actions happening within. –Ashley Ravelo (Microcosm, 2752 N Williams Ave., Portland, OR 97227)