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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier | Thoughts

Published in: 2020
Format read in: ebook
Location: Los Angeles, US
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: I believe I saw this book first on the Morning's ToB longlist and then same day came across a copy in my library's Overdrive catalog and decided to read it.

One line review: A slow mental destruction waiting to happen, live, as you read the book - not fun but also reinforces how easy it is to miss the signs.

Who should read it: If a little stream-of-consciousness and reading about mental illness is something you gravitate towards, I would recommend this book to you. 

Soon, you’ll have your own beautiful boy or girl who will look at you with their perfect little face and you’ll feel love and hope and, mostly, you’ll feel the weight of everything that’s ever happened to you and everything that will ever happen to them and you’ll want to run.


At the beginning of Pizza Girl, we learn that our unnamed protagonist is pregnant, just out of high school, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban LA. She's grieving a father she struggled to love, running away from her mother's care and her boyfriend's affection, and slowly getting obsessed with a customer, Jenny, a stay-at-home mom who is new to town. Right when she thinks she knows where her life is leading, her world and beliefs go for a toss.

Even a month after reading this book, I'm finding it hard to review it. The protagonist is so damaged and also very detached from life in general. She's just going through the motions, day in, day out, not caring what impact her actions are having on others, and certainly operating outside the realm of what most people will say 'normal', not that normalcy has a good definition either. She has a mother who loves her and a boyfriend who dotes on her. The father she considered absent is dead, and she has a baby on the way. It may sound like there is the promise of a future on her radar, but on the flip side, she is a pregnant teenager - one more statistic, her boyfriend had grand career plans ahead of him, which he abandoned to take care of her - not that he holds it against her, and her mother is excited rather than angry about the pregnancy. 

She is very disillusioned with her life and it's at that point that she is enamored by cheerful, vibrant, and a full of personality Jenny. Every Wednesday, Jenny calls the pizza place for her special pizza order and our protagonist convinces herself that she has a right to investigate or intrude when no order comes through one Wednesday. From there, things get murkier, there are misunderstandings, and a frightening disaster.

I'm trying not to give away too much but also share just how creepy and frightening this read was. There are no ghosts or murdered babies. Just a person's slow descent into an abyss of her own creation that no one seems to spot. Often I felt like I was screaming at a person crossing a road without looking both sides and therefore walking into the path of an oncoming bus. I kept pleading with her to change her decisions and not destroy herself. 

The sad thing was she wasn't really trying to harm herself, she was just in a downward trend, committing minor aggressions that when stacked up, create a force huge enough to damage her. But everyone initially sees only these little misses and so no one intervenes. And that's how mental illness takes a hold on people, right? Individual slivers of that person look alright, maybe even downright normal. But you put all those pieces together and then you see what you missed. The reader is the only person in the beginning who sees it all.

The book left me very uneasy which is why I'm having a hard time reconciling my feelings about it. That exactly was the intent of the author. So I will recommend this book - but watch out for how you are left feeling. It may not be the kind of book you'll say you loved because it leaves you shaken but you should feel that - it's truly amazing how this little book keeps you thinking. That ending though - I wasn't so sure about it. Coming right out of the climax of the book, I could go about it both ways - yes it makes sense, but also, hmm, I'm not so sure.

If you have read this book, what did you think of it?