Lessons in Taxidermy

Dazzling and terrifying.  These are the words that echo over and over again in response to both the text and its author, Bee Lavender.  Goll-ee.  I remember seeing this book somewhere, maybe at Powell’s after it first came out in 2005, and being really intrigued by the cover, especially that shade of blue ink.  It reminds me of the mimeographs of elementary school and our secretary, I’m pretty sure she was called Mrs. Price (tall {or maybe just to a child under age eleven}, thin, and perfectly coiffed every day of my entire Thomson Elementary career, a variation on what Jackie O. would have looked like if she took the job), turning the crank on that blue barrel shaped machine, and making the most positively pleasant sound.  Then there was the paper immediately after, cool, slightly damp and smelling, in the most heavenly way, of whatever chemical rendered it all possible.  I’m sure it was all quite toxic and part of the reason I am the nutter butter I am today.  That said, I still loved it.

And this gem of a book, to which I am returning.  I didn’t read it then and specifically remember not wanting to.  Knee deep in the throes of endometriosis (my condition is not even a word in my lousy dictionary/spell checker {I did NOT mean endomorphism!} – that so many women suffer from such a horrible disease and it doesn’t even register as a “real” word is beyond annoying), the thought of taking on someone else’s physical pain, even via a book, was out of the question.

Were it not for Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have given it another thought.  Then Byron, a friend from my elementary school days (I’ll bet he remembers Mrs. Price, too), found me and, as I discovered from a link posted on his wall, just so happens to be married to the author.  So there you go, a message from the universe that I might enjoy what his wife has to say.

Boy, did I ever.  Bee Lavender writes about life, growing up in the outskirts of society in a place at once tender and violent, and her body being riddled by cancer after cancer, illness after illness, tragedy after tragedy, from the ripe age of twelve.

Her life is a steady succession of shocks, and though there is ample reason to feel pity for her, a teen mother, a body that will never be cancer-free, more surgeries and procedures than I can even fathom, it is certainly not her aim.  Quite to the contrary, she is the type of woman who has taken her lot, for better or worse, and seen it as greater than the sum of its parts, far, far greater.  She understands the repetition of life, the ceaseless cycles, and is ever more keenly aware of death and our proximity to it, at any given moment.

Yet, she’s hardly been afraid to live or exert her power.  She travels, dances, and drives the countryside.  She is fun and funny.  She cannot be contained.  She speaks her mind.  She shares wholeheartedly.  Dazzling and terrifying and absolutely worth reading.  In a single sitting– I nearly forgot to mention that.  I couldn’t put it down.

1 comment

  1. Mom’s avatar

    Wow… it sounds very interesting. Now that I have a Kindle, I will head to Amazon.

Comments are now closed.