All The Ugly And Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

My Review:

I finished this book on the 4th March having listened to it on Audible and it’s taken me 6 days to find the courage and the words to try to articulate a review.

So wish me luck and here goes…. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was recommended to me by a couple of readers on THE Book Club on Facebook, because a) they know I like uncomfortable and dark books and b) it’s a wonderful book.

It’s unfortunately NOT available on Kindle but I listened to this on Audible narrated by Jorjeana Marie who really deserves a prize for her incredible skills at bringing this powerful story to life and giving the characters a voice that needs to be heard.

The blurb above gives you the basis of the book, a young girl called Wavy, growing up in a brutal and dysfunctional environment with a drug addict for a mother and a violent meth dealer for a father, she has been neglected, ignored and mentally abused by her parents since birth. At the age of 8 she meets Kellen, one of her father’s drug dealers, an uneducated thug with a history of violence. This chance encounter changes Wavy and Kellen’s lives in ways that nobody could possibly understand.

These two unlikely individuals begin a relationship that is pure and innocent, their love and need for each other is so raw and deep that the listener often feels like an intruder. However, their friendship is not understood by anyone else, especially Wavy’s aunt who can only see ugliness and disgust and sparks an event that tears their worlds apart.

The fact that Wavy was only 8 when she met and fell in love with Kellen is an uncomfortable thought, but listening to Kellen explain his feelings and trying to control his emotions only makes the listener love him more.

I honestly can’t recommend this incredible book enough, not only will it go into my Top Ten books of 2021, it will go into my Top Ten Book of ALL TIME.

Extraordinary, beautiful, harsh, raw, breathtaking, heartbreaking and utterly WONDERFUL.

If I could give this book 10 stars, I would.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the Author – Bryn Greenwood: grew up on the mean streets of Hugoton, Kansas, where the only traffic light in town went to flashing red at dusk. Alright, the streets weren’t mean. They were gravel and named after presidents. Not even all the presidents, because Hugoton at the time was only ten blocks by ten blocks.

When I was little, my family often accused me of being a storyteller, which is a polite way in Kansas of calling someone a liar. Later I found out it really doesn’t matter whether something’s true, as long as it’s a good story. The first story I ever wrote in pre-school was a thinly veiled autobiography about a family of aliens. In the story’s illustrations my older sister looks suspiciously like the Great Gazoo from The Flintstones.

My mother was a teetotaler and my father was into a variety of recreational chemicals, so their marriage was probably doomed from the start. Over the years, we picked up my stepdad, my stepmom, and four more sisters, bringing the grand total of daughters to seven.

At fifteen, I didn’t so much drop out of high school to go to college as I ran away to escape the torments of prom and church youth groups.

Somewhere in there, I got a BA in French Literature, a BA in English, and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. Faced with the terrifying prospect of a PhD or reality, I chose reality.

At any rate, I chose to take a teaching job in Japan. I lived in Niigata Prefecture, where we got 45 feet of snow my first winter. After that I came home and wasted what were probably the prime years of my life demonstrating the correct way to put on a condom to high school students and a variety of social services audiences.

Since then I’ve been working in academia, both teaching and pushing papers. I got married, had kittens, got divorced, bought a project house, and rescued a pair of boxers. (The dogs, not the undergarments.)

In the last twenty years, I’ve written somewhere around a million words, and my thinly veiled autobiography would still be about aliens.

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