I read it recently, and I told her that it's beautiful like a Leonard Cohen song is beautiful. Like him, she can write about heartbreaking and often ugly things and make them seem poetic.
While I can't justify writing a "objective" review for Wild Violet, given the conflict of interest, she agreed that I could write about it here.
At beginning of the book, Brian Crowley, a troubled young man running from the hardships of life, is living off government checks, taking medication, and living in an abandoned cabin.
The book chronicles the events that brought him to that point, primarily his experiences on a rundown organic farm in Pennsylvania. While there, he socializes with a group of fellow outsiders and learns there is no easy escape from the ugliness and strife of life.
In many ways, King of the Dust Mites is an epic journey. Brian must confront different obstacles along the way, many of which are internal, and like the challenges of Odysseus, they grow more challenging as the book continues, until he finally learns enough to allow him to return home.
Brian is a thoughtful character, often given to random musings about the people, the places, and things he encounters. Sometimes these thoughts seem disjointed, but more often, they feel like impromptu prose poems.
One of the motifs is the idea of garbage and how we cast away so many things in our lives that were once important. Brian calls himself the King of the Dust Mites, the lowliest of the lowly, the beings that feed on the dust of this world. This appellation coincides with how he views himself and also with the situations he finds himself in, such as living on an ill-kept, refuse-strewn farm.
Of added interest to me was discovering how much of the novella was based on real people and real events. Nearly all of the characters are a pastiche of more than one person, ranging from the author herself to my brother, to her family members, to friends and acquaintances we've all known. And nearly everything in the book actually happened, although not exactly the way they appear in the book.
It took me back in time to my so-called hippie days and the people I knew then. While we had our moments in the sun, it was certainly not an entirely carefree time: a lot of those friends and acquaintances lived simply, staying off the grid, so to speak, by doing odd jobs and sleeping on friend's couches.
I, of course, highly recommend buying this book. Reading it will cause you to reflect on this journey of life and how, even from the lowest depths of our experiences, we can rise.