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Home » Culture and Criticism

TN Read-Along #1 Discussion Thread: Going In Circles

Submitted by on June 24, 2010 – 1:23 PM42 Comments

Don’t forget that Pamela Ribon is gracing us for a live chat on Wednesday 30 June at 8 PM ET. I’ll have a chat URL and an FAQ in the next day or two.

And now, to Going In Circles, which I tore through in under four hours; I wouldn’t even put it down while I made a sandwich, and nearly cut my finger off slicing a tomato. Not the first time something similar has happened, and it’s the sign of a gripping read.

Fast forward to the scene in the bathroom in the middle of the night (you know the one), which I kind of tried to read from behind a pillow because it made me so uncomfortable with how real it felt.

Commenters in another thread mentioned that they felt like Pamie had bugged their homes to write the book. Which scenes made you feel like that? Discuss that — and anything else you like — below, remembering that

1) the thread allows spoilers, and

2) while you don’t have to have finished the book to participate, you should read the entire thread before posting.

Away we go!




  • Rachel says:

    I was scratching at the door of the bookstore before they opened on the day this came out. Been reading Pamie for years blahblahfangirlblah, and Why Girls Are Weird made me have asthma attacks I was laughing so hard.

    Wasn’t expecting a near-death experience with this one, though. I read it in about three hours and I hated it. HATED IT. Felt like some things were missing, but I couldn’t really articulate it so I read it again about a week later and then I got it. LOVED IT.

    I haven’t had to deal with a situation like Charlotte’s, thank goodness, but that’s not to say I can’t relate. Having the rug pulled out from under you sucks and I think Pam captured that feeling of “WTF” very very well.

    And the roller derby stuff… oh man, I’m currently getting up the courage to get my fat ass out on a track with a local team here but I’m scared and hearing about all the bumps and bruises and broken asses isn’t helping. ;-)

    I’ll have more to say as other people chime in, but those were my initial thoughts after having read it twice.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:


    I too ripped through the book (didn’t dare take it to work in case it distracted me) and while my life is very different, also had the uncomfortable feeling that Pamie was recording me and laughing in a secret lair someplace. Which is a sure sign that she’s tapped into something fundamental about how a certain strata of female (white, middle class, confused) deals with something our society told us, as women, is both achievement and reward for that achievement turning on us “out of nowhere”, and how nowhere isn’t a real place, that everything comes out of somewhere.

    I loved the gradual reveal throughout the story of the real cracking point in the marriage, and how Pamie got there with Charlotte’s thought process (eerily similar to my own)which starts on the presumption that if your partner is guilty, you are by definition innocent, and ever so slowly and painfully revealing that while he did X, you did Y, and it was the combination of those things that produced the toxic compound that overwhelmed your relationship.

    Sad, and scary, because X and Y seem like such little, descrete events–if you told your mother/freinds/self that your marriage broke up because some metrosexual asshole got too gropey, and that your husband broke your dollhouse, so you’re getting a divorce, they’d do a combination of blinking, laughing and “what?”ing. And it sounds so stupid, and petty, and love is above that, right? Nope. Love’s not above missed text and Skype times, or realizing that you’ve spent an enormous amount of energy accomodating your spouse’s need to line up salt and pepper shakers, or not noticing a dress color. On the contrary, little things are its food and drink.

    Roller Derby! God, how I wanted to tear through a pack of screaming women while throwing arms and knees in all directions–all that was missing were torches and a river! If only I wasn’t a slow healer and the clumsiest person on the planet, I’d run out right now and get a mouth guard. The exhilaration of the writing made me really feel how entrancing participating in a sport can be, regardless of skill level, and how you can tap into a well of energy that’s just been lying around, waiting to be used, to fire you up. I’ve never been a sports person (aforementioned clumsiness/slow healing), and because I can’t get over my own self-conciousness, that I will never get beyond that most embarrassing moment, so living through Char being the opposite of me–well, it’s one of the main reasons I read.

    I’ll stop for now, but can’t wait to read the other posts and talk more about this amazing book! Thanks to Pamie for writing and Sars for hosting.

  • Amie says:

    I actually took time to read Going in Circles while on a trip for work. I permitted myself one single day of reading that was not associated with my about-to-be-finished graduate program. I’m SO glad I took the time to do it!
    Even never having been through a major breakup, it felt (I hate to use such an overused word, but…) relatable.

    I had been toying with the idea of taking the plunge into things like roller derby for years, but always had excuses. I am certain there is now going to be an even greater surge in people who’ve read GIC “taking the plunge” and deciding to be fearless about something, even if it isn’t roller derby. Even if I never become an awesome roller derby chick, it was empowering to read a story where a woman finds something that teaches her how to save herself FROM herself. I am certainly the type to get stuck in my own head and sometimes I think I need to just *do* something, physically, instead.

  • Casey says:

    I liked the book a lot- it had that raw, honest edge to it and it was the perfect snapshot of this one transitional period in life. My only complaint is that I really kind of wanted more. I felt like there were kernels of things from Charlotte’s previous life that I wanted to know more about and, like, I needed more explanation on how the whole thing just fell apart. Which, of course, is the point- to feel the way it feels to have your life implode and you aren’t sure why or how to put it back together.

  • Kelly says:

    I thought the book was thoughtful, hilarious, and sharp. I like that she basically tells her therapist to f___ off, because therapy isn’t always a cure for everyone (though I find it remarkably helpful, myself). Finding your salvation however it comes is a key thing for everyone.

    I like that the Jonathan relationship wasn’t really ever resolved, and that Charlotte didn’t end up doing anything stupid, like sleeping with a friend or anything like that. The book doesn’t have any easy answers, but it’s clear that a best friend, some skates and a helmet can do wonders for one’s clarity and self-esteem. I thought it was an enjoyable read. I finished it in a couple of days.

  • Jess says:

    Sars, when you announced that this was the first read-along book, it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I’d just finished reading it about six weeks ago.

    Overall, I think Pamie’s hilarious, though her characters do sort of weaken in places. This was far stronger and less …wish-fulfill-ey? than “Why Girls Are Weird” and it definitely had a better arc. I guess it’s a conceit of the genre that the main character has to have some secret hobby that she can transform into a fulfilling career, but the whole thing with the miniatures felt like a really forced metaphor to me. And I felt like there needed to be more drawing Charlotte to the derby than just a coworker deciding to drag her there.

    But once she got there, I do have to say, the derby scenes were magic, and the appeal of it really obvious. You don’t have to be a derby girl to identify with Charlotte’s need for an intensely physically exhausting and demanding outlet after a breakup. Mine was boxing. It gradually evolved from a way to take my rage out on inanimate objects to something that’s still a big part of my life even though my life got awesome after the bad breakup and I have no rage to speak of anymore. I’m actually training for competition now. I couldn’t have imagined that the first time I strapped on a pair of gloves, just as I know Charlotte couldn’t have imagined competing the first time she strapped on a pair of skates.

  • Karen says:

    I also read this book very quickly, which is not a surprise because I read her other two very quickly as well.

    I’ve been reading Pamie for years — she was the recapper for Gilmore Girls and that lead me to her site. I know this sounds kinda stalker-y, but part of the reason I was so excited to read this book is because I felt like I was about to learn more about Pam’s life, specifically the part that she wasn’t talking about on her website.

    As a reader, I was curious about the ups and downs of her life — you kind of can’t help getting attached after reading someone’s blog for that long — but I had to keep reminding myself that Pam is not a character in a book (not Charlotte), and that it isn’t really my right to know more about her life than she wants to share.

    Going in Circles is really great, and I also love the way Pamie paced out the revelation of what happened to the marriage. The descriptions of roller derby are amazingly graphic, and almost (ALMOST) made me want to get in there myself. They definitely made me want to go to a roller rink at least.

    I think it would be easy to make Charlotte’s husband (…damn, why can’t I remember his name?) into the villain, but Pamie does a great job of making him a real person who is going through real emotions.

    I’m curious to know about the miniatures — why that? Did Pamie have to research it?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I needed more explanation on how the whole thing just fell apart

    So did I, and yet, I thought it was very true to how sometimes there’s no explanation, or a bunch of explanations, and life isn’t very narratively satisfying sometimes.

    And a lot of times, that kind of realism doesn’t work for me; I don’t always want a narrative to be realistic in that way, because part of why we like fiction and movies is that the loose ends do get tied up and we know the reasons and motivations. Here, though, I was content that it remained “unsolved,” if that makes sense.

  • TashiAnn says:

    Overall I really enjoyed the book. Reading about the breakup in the beginning was very painful and very difficult to read however. But that’s probably because it was so well written and felt so real and believable. I haven’t been married for very long and the thought of it all ending so suddenly made me feel ill.

    I liked the fact that the book was messy and left things open because life is messy and there are no easy answers in situations like this. You need to find out what works for you and time needs to pass, which is horrible because it would be much easier if you could snap your fingers and everything would be fine but that’s not life.

    I loved the giant TV and the miniatures and while I really liked reading about roller derby and might even go see a match one day I have no intention of ever getting into a ring. It’s like reading about climbing Everest. It’s fascinating and wonderful but no way. The miniatures seemed to be the opposite of roller derby – they are so small and delicate and derby is just not.

    I know this is about the book but for me, like Karen above, it was about the author too and felt a bit stalker-y. I came late to the Gilmore Girls and so caught up with Pamie’s recaps while I was engaged. The overlap between reading about her wedding and planning for my wedding and watching episodes of the Gilmore Girls made me a bit too concerned about her personal life. I’m very glad that she is doing so well now.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I loved that we didn’t get the big Why about why things just fell apart. The best description I ever heard for this phenomenon was a Earnest Hemingway character describing how he went bankrupt–“Gradually and then suddenly.”

    There’s a thousand parallel universes where Charolotte and Matthew’s cracks stayed just that, and they’re together or split up after a kid or one of them died in a car crash, but this universe is the one where two people have to confront the fact that their love was real, and is dead, with astonishing, crushing rapidity.

    I especially liked the scene where Char is meeting Matthew for dinner and noting all the OCD things he does: lining up silverware, arranging his napkin over and over–and having a rush of memories about how she’s accomodated herself to these thousand little things, because she loved him, and now that that love is weaker and strained, it’s no longer enough to cover the fact that she resents being a “thing” Matthew has to “manage”, instead of his wife.

  • Cait says:

    Loved this book, and as someone who has gone through a major breakup of a relationship in somewhat similar circumstances, I related to a LOT of what Charlotte went through. The comfort of the couch that’s referenced repeatedly–yeah, been there.

    I think the part that resonated the most though was how friends can pop up in the most unexpected of ways. Charlotte wasn’t looking for a best friend, but an unexpected Happy Meal changed her life.

    And I second the question about miniatures. Although it worked within the context of the book, it was an interesting (odd?) choice of hobbies, and I wonder how that came into being.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I read this book the first day it came out, and recently re-read it in preparation for this discussion. During the intervening two months my husband and I decided to divorce. This fact colors every facet of my life and made it so I could not read this book without crying, without comparing every little detail to how things really are, for me. So I am one of those women who wonder how Pamie got inside my house and my heart. Jen S.’s thoughts above are so accurate: sometimes it *is* the little things that matter the most. Charlotte’s initial confusion felt just right and the details of separation (Facebook stalking, meetings, family occasions) had me cringing in recognition.

    I love Francesca and want a friend just like her. Charlotte’s friendship with her was my favorite aspect of the book. The roller derby stuff was fantastic and, like so many other readers, it made me want to *do* something, even if it’s not skating.

    I’m looking forward to reading more thoughts from TN readers!

  • Karen says:

    TashiAnn’s point (“The miniatures seemed to be the opposite of roller derby – they are so small and delicate and derby is just not.”) is so true. You’re working with only your fingers and it’s small and contained.

    I wonder if that’s why Pam chose it.

  • Jennifer says:

    Karen said: “As a reader, I was curious about the ups and downs of her life — you kind of can’t help getting attached after reading someone’s blog for that long — but I had to keep reminding myself that Pam is not a character in a book (not Charlotte), and that it isn’t really my right to know more about her life than she wants to share.”

    Seconded. I had no idea Pamie had gotten divorced and was all, “wait, what?!” afterwards when I read interviews. I will admit that sometimes it is a little weird to think about when someone bases their books off of what happens to them in real life. Not that I have any idea how much of this is based off Pamie’s beyond the bare facts of divorce + roller derby + knowing what it’s like to break your tailbone, but you find yourself wondering whether you want to know or not (not that I do overmuch, these days everyone has to shut up some on the Internet, so you can’t expect to hear as much as you did back in 1997.). I guess in some ways it makes me feel a little weirded out about how much of “the character” I am reading about vs. Pamie. Though on the other hand, I’m well aware that translating real life into fiction changes things quite a bit, and there will end up being a good lot of separation from reality when you are putting things into a narrative. God knows when I have tried writing fictional stories about my real life, things change quite a bit.

    So…yeah, I don’t know :P So much for profound thoughts on this.

    Amie said, “it was empowering to read a story where a woman finds something that teaches her how to save herself FROM herself.” Hear, hear. I have no coordination on wheels so I won’t be trying roller derby myself, but it sounds like a fun environment, other than the injuries!

  • Mertseger says:

    Finally, we can talk about this. I thought the reveals were a huge literary risk. We’ve accepted that Charlotte and Matthew have broken up, and then, much later, we learn that Matthew is OCD. OK. Then we learn towards the very and that Matthew destroyed the minatures. Drunkenly desecrating Charlotte’s art? The break up made total sense to me after that bit of information, but I do not fully fathom why Charlotte took so long to get there (to herself, to her family, to us).

    Also. We saw how Charlotte got through her mother’s birthday without revealing the separation to ther parents, but an entire year of maintaining that illusion? I had trouble suspending my disbelief.

    Nevertheless, I loved Francesca. I loved her leaving a Happy Meal at Chalotte’s desk because she perceived that Charlotte needed to be happy. Francesca served the Gaurdian at the Gate role well.

    Okay. The voice-overs. I understand the psychological disassociation. But John Goodman? I think the device worked for me, but what do the rest of you think?

    In the end, though, I saw this novel as a big step foward for Pamie as a novelist. The risks made enjoy the narrative than a more linear and standard narrative would have. I didn’t even really feel that necessary exposition was being kept from me even though it was, and that speaks to her growing skill.

  • Lisa says:

    I too have been a follower of Pamie for years, and I too was curious about the premise of this book as related to the author’s life. I found that after the first chapter I forgot about the author and was able to focus solely on the characters and enjoy the book for what it is, an entertaining work of fiction.

    The strengths for me were the roller derby descriptions and the friendships. I loved the development of the friendship with Franchesca. It seemed very realistic, the way you sometimes just “click” with someone, in a non-romantic way, they way making a new friend can be the best thing in the world. The office friendship with Jonathon was very good as well, these are people you spend half your life with at the office, they know you better then you think. I also enjoyed the way the older friendship played out. I can’t remember the friend’s name (I’m embarrassed to say that), but I felt the truth of it, the ignoring of one friend when your life changes, while still expecting them to be there, unconditionally. The selfishness involved in a break up, when you think everything is about you, all the time. I’ve been on both sides of that equation and so I think that’s why it resonated with me so much.

    The Roller Derby was very exciting! It inspired me to do a search and see if my city had a league (they do!), although I don’t believe I’d ever actually do it, I may go out at and least watch a bout.

    The miniatures hobby was a surprise to me, but I understood the metaphor by the end – Charlotte was kind of a control freak, the miniatures were a reflection of that. Replicating things and making sure they were perfect, never out of place. I got it by the end, and it was a nice twist.

    The only weakness for me was the relationship with Matthew. It didn’t quite satisfy me, I felt I was left with too many whys? and hows?

    Why did he leave? Did I miss a vital chapter in the book? Was it just that he fell “out of love”? I really didn’t understand what happened at the end, and maybe I need to re-read it to figure it out.

    I finished the book feeling a little annoyed. Maybe I’m naive, but couldn’t they have at least attempted to work through things? I get that in the end it was no one’s fault, but some things should have been explained, were there problems all along? Were they unhappy from the beginning? Maybe it was that we jumped in to the book at the end of the relationship, whereas other relationships were allowed to bloom, this one – the driving force behind the story – just came to an end for no tangible reason.

    Perhaps the genius of the whole thing is that THAT is real life, things just end, and not in spectacular fashion, where books often give us the answers and the endings that we want, Pamie wasn’t afraid to give us the truth.

  • KTB says:

    I also tore through the book on a flight from Portland to Los Angeles, appropriately enough, and liked it. I’ve also found myself reading Pamie’s blog from time to time and did wonder myself what was going on when her personal life totally vanished from it one day.

    Like TashiAnn said, I haven’t been married that long myself and have definitely had that gripping fear that it could all come crashing down for a million different reasons that would have been fine on their own. And I can appreciate the stubbornness that went into Char’s decision to leave after Matthew came back.

    I absolutely love, love, loved Char’s relationship with Andy and thought it was spot-in as far as best friendships go. I also loved when he called her out for sucking at her end of the friendship. That hit home for me almost as much as anything else.

    I also wondered about the miniatures thing and while it made sense insofar as it helped define Char’s relationship with her mother, I still think it was a little strained. As was the scene where Jonathan steps over the line–I wasn’t a fan of that either.

  • cdc says:

    I’m conflicted. I bought the book when it came out as I, too, have been following Pamie for years. In many ways I loved it – her writing is always very engaging to me, and I generally love her characters. Like some of the comments above, however…I wanted more. When I read Pamie’s blog, I fully respect her desire to leave some things out. That’s her life, those are her decisions, and it’s not my place to know. In a novel, though, I want some of those things. For me, some of the transitional parts felt too rapid. I couldn’t fully engage with Charlotte because I wasn’t given enough of the spaces between the actions. It didn’t necessarily take away from my enjoyment of the book at the time – I’ve read it twice now, both times in an afternoon, and will likely pull it down again later – but I’m a little distracted afterward, and find it hard to voice why.

  • Lisa says:

    The first half of the book was almost too painful to read, and it’s been four years since my break-up (of sorts). It brought me back to exactly how it felt when it happened though- the alienation and the awkwardness and not wanting to talk about it constantly but not knowing how to talk about anything else. It was brutal to read and relive. I thought I was completely over it and then this book made me neurotic for a solid week, but I came out of it feeling better, like this helped me sweat the last of it out of my system. It helped me forgive the other person and myself too, as cheesy as that sounds.

    Strangely enough, I was dealing with the possible ending of a ten year friendship at the same time, and reading about Charlotte saying “Wait wait, I messed up, this friendship matters, I’m sorry, can we move past this?” helped open my eyes to how stubborn I was being. It was almost eery how much this book applied to my life.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Mertseger, I got that Char took as long as she did to finally acknowledge Matthew’s destruction of her art (and heart) because she knew she’d messed up too–letting Book get too freindly and not maintaining boundries and respect for her marriage while trying to pretend it’s just “what you have to do” in the art world and maintaining her internal facade of irritation with Matthew for “not getting it” when she knew perfectly well Matthew was right to be angry. They both avoid the real problem until Matthew commits this irrevocable breach out of pure frustration, and Char is so scared/guilty about it she lets things drag on and on rather than face the end and her own complicity in it.

    (By the way, this is in NO WAY meant to be victim blaming or imply that women deserve violence from their partners–it’s just my take on Char’s thought processes.)

  • Jane says:

    Having lived through my husband moving out, and then back in, I thought most of book perfectly captured the ambivalence about moving forward in a relationship that is fractured. It’s war inside your brain, where one said is insisting “We’re MARRIED. That’s FOREVER. I will not fail at this,” and the other side is saying, “How can you stay when he has so little respect for you?” And neither choice represents who you want to be as a person, who you are, so you don’t make any choice.

    I find interesting that others are finding the reasons for the break-up to be subtle, or that the reasons feel unresolved. Despite my obvious difficulty in choosing to end a marriage, I have two biggies that are absolute deal-breakers, those being violence and drugs. So, the book made much more sense to me before the reveal about Matthew smashing the dollhouse. Like @Mertseger said, what took Charlotte so long? The piece that does feel unresolved to me is why Matthew didn’t take action. If he was dating and going to Italy without Charlotte, he was clearly moving on in a way Charlotte wasn’t yet, so why didn’t he file the damn divorce papers?

    Also: The fuck you TV? I have a 65″ version in my living room. It’s glorious.

  • Mertseger says:

    @Jen I can see the internalization of the guilt over Book, but having put down the book for over a month, I did not even remember that incident. I could not see the two things as being equally bad (his reaction being far worse than her action to me at least).

    But your comment does raise the issue of whether Charlotte in some sense was drawn to roller derby because she was seeking physical punishment for her perceived guilt. The other side of that is, of course, the sport also affords the chance to hit as well as being hit. Where does either of those parts of the derby experience leave the empowerment women find in the sport (which reminds me, I need to finish reading pamie’s article on the topic over at I think there is answer to that in the book (and in Whip-it), but does someone care to spell it out?

  • Amie says:

    I also really, really appreciated that Charlotte: 1) did not have to sleep with her male best friend, and 2) did not require any “girl-gets-dude” sub-plot to validate her rediscovery of herself.

    Those cliches can be well done and satisfying, but I really loved that they were not how Pamie told Charlotte’s story.

  • Diane says:

    @Amie “I also really, really appreciated that Charlotte: 1) did not have to sleep with her male best friend, and 2) did not require any “girl-gets-dude” sub-plot to validate her rediscovery of herself.”

    YES! Exactly what I thought at the end of the book. I really loved that this book emphasized the importance of friendship, and of fulfilment outside of romantic relationships. I want Andy to be my friend, too.

    I like all Pamela Ribon’s books, but this is definitely my favourite, I truly loved it. I think it’s very funny and very raw, but also very well structured, and I loved how it all fitted together. I liked the miniatures thing a lot, thought they were really well-described, and while it maybe wasn’t necessary for C to have two hobbies that fulfilled her (this is more of a story about roller derby, after all) it was a great metaphor and great that C also had a creative outlet that could even one day be a second career. (And how often are miniatures a storyline? So original.) For all my love for the book, I was left with some questions/thoughts:

    I would have liked more of a confrontation between Charlotte and Matthew, for them to have had that one conversation where she confronted him, or he explained himself, or she let him know how much she had moved on. But I guess that doesn’t often happen in real life, either.

    Do you think he needed to be OCD? For me, I think that made him more sympathetic, or at least gave a reason for some of their relationship difficulties (the stress of him not having it under control etc). On the other hand, as someone who has a mental illness, I always feel wary when reading a mental illness storyline, in case it becomes ‘Oh, those mentally ill people, what a challenge they are!’ kind of thing, a denigration or worse, a punchline. Pamela walked a very fine line here and I think she did it well, but it made me a little nervous.

    Also, was anyone else not quite so keen on Francesca? I thought their friendship got almost claustrophobically close a little too quickly, and she was my least favourite character. I feel it might be sacrilege for me to say that, though…

    I thought the John Goodman voiceover was really quirky, but totally apt and funny. And when she let go of that, it obviously signified she was ready to be fully present in her life again. I liked how that was handled. I also related. As a writer myself, I do sometimes find I narrate my life in my head. Which might not be a good sign… No sitcom star has joined me in there yet, though. Which is something.

  • Kristina says:

    I want to second a lot of the sentiments mentioned above – the relief that Charlotte doesn’t get a guy at the end (at least, not explicitly) and that the book focuses as much on her relationship with Francesca as it does on her relationship with her husband. And it does so organically: only typing it out now, I’m realizing that her relationship with Francesca is a counterpoint to her relationship with her husband…that seems very obvious now. Ouch. But I thought that was beautifully done, showing the way she grew from the loss of the latter relationship in order to save and grow up to improve the former.
    But I cannot get over how…foreign…I guess, this book was to me. Well, not the situation – I was actually nursing a broken heart when I started it, but…I mean, I read a lot, but I’ve never felt that the way a character thinks, and reacts, was so unlike anything I’ve experienced. I wonder if it’s because I conflated Charlotte with Pamie, like a lot of other readers said they found they were doing, but I don’t know. Is it because I’ve never lived in California, never been pretty, never been married, never been divorced? I found that unsettling – I’ll need to reread to figure out what was going on there (I was also reading George R.R. Martin’s books, and Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series at the same time, and that probably didn’t help). It might be that this book felt too real to me. That’s not a complaint, certainly – the first half of the book was, as mentioned above, painfully raw, and I had a hard time getting through it because it was just too close for comfort, I guess. The roller derby scenes just made me jealous. I can’t do roller derby because a) I learned to roller skate on roller blades and cannot, for the life of me, skate properly on the other kind of skate (and I am not that young), and b) I destroyed my knee a few years ago so my doctor would kick me in the face before allowing me to participate. This book actually inspired me to find my own version of roller derby. I’m still looking, but I should thank Pamie for that.

  • Tarn says:

    This was a hard book for me to read, and it’s hard even to write about without getting very personal. Long story short: about a year ago, my boyfriend heard from an old female friend of his who was recently separated from her husband and had just started roller derby. I had read Pamie’s first roller derby post on her blog awhile before that, and I was fascinated by it so I was excited to meet her. We became friends…and then she and my boyfriend had an affair. So broken relationships and roller derby resonate deeply with me, though not quite in the same way as for Charlotte/Pamie.

    I so related to the push and pull of Charlotte and Matthew. Knowing that the relationship may be irrevocably broken, but neither side wanting them to be. The guilt, the confusion, the sadness, the pain. Not knowing whether it would be harder to stay apart or stay together. He and I did stay together and are doing well, but it has been a loooong process, and I’ve had a few of those nights where I almost “cracked.”

    [deep breath] On to the book…the voice and relatability (is a word?) of the story are unbelievable. The only thing I’m unsure of as far as the writing goes is the use of the John Goodman narrative. I understand its purpose and found it helpful at some points, but I feel it was used a little to much to tell, rather than show. It was a little too on the nose as a device, I thought. It’s interesting that “John Goodman” didn’t tell us about Book and Matthew breaking the dollhouse; it was so buried in Charlotte’s thoughts that even her narrator couldn’t deal with it.

  • Diane says:

    “This book actually inspired me to find my own version of roller derby. I’m still looking, but I should thank Pamie for that.”

    Oh yes, me too. Disability means I’m never going to be a derby girl, but something kick-ass that gives me a fabulous new crowd and takes my mind off everything else? That sounds wonderful.

  • Cait says:

    Diane says, “Also, was anyone else not quite so keen on Francesca? I thought their friendship got almost claustrophobically close a little too quickly, and she was my least favourite character. I feel it might be sacrilege for me to say that, though… ”

    I felt the same way. While I definitely appreciate a new friend, especially when it feels like the world as you know it is crashing around you, Francesca (at least at first), was almost stalker-creepy. I ended up liking her, and appreciative of how she pushed Charlotte out of her comfort zone and wouldn’t back down, but at first? Not so much. I feel like I would have deleted her from my cell phone and blocker her from my Facebook profile in real life…but then, certain people come into our lives like a hurricane and help us jump out of the funk that we’re stuck in, much like Francesca did for Charlotte, and I think that’s why I was able to eventually overcome my initial dislike of her.

    And I second the fuck you television. Loved it.

  • Rachel says:

    @Mertsger hit it for me talking about how Charlotte gets through her mom’s birthday dinner without mentioning the separation. The relationships between Charlotte and her parents felt really false to me, because if Charlotte’s mom was as overbearing (I guess) as Charlotte told us she was, wouldn’t she have noticed over the course of a YEAR that her daughter’s marriage was no longer happening? If her parents lived across the country, I could see maybe keeping up the charade for that long, but I got the impression that they lived across town or something.

    Now, I know not everyone is close to or has a good relationship with their parents. I don’t talk to my mom every day (or every week, sometimes), but that’s the way we go on and even though I’m pretty sure she has no idea whatsoever of who I am as an adult person, she would know that there was something wrong if my husband were to up and leave one morning with no explanation. That kind of annoyed me and took me out of the story for a bit.

  • Linda says:

    “if Charlotte’s mom was as overbearing (I guess) as Charlotte told us she was, wouldn’t she have noticed over the course of a YEAR that her daughter’s marriage was no longer happening?”

    Mm. Interesting, because I find that the opposite is true. The more overbearing people’s parents are, the more they are likely to simply tell their parents NOTHING. Being overbearing doesn’t cause your kids to open up to you. It causes them to shut you out and to LEARN how to shut you out, and I have known people who have managed to keep some pretty heavy-duty stuff from their parents for precisely this reason.

    But I love this book, so.

  • Gen says:

    Loved it, a hugely engaging read. Part of what draws me to both Pamie and Sars’ writing is the way they balance humor with poignant and emotionally raw observations. It was a treat to curl up with GIC knowing that I had chapters and chapters of Pamie’s writing ahead of me.

    One moment that struck me was the description of the ache Charlotte feels when, in response to being told “at least you never had kids,” she imagines a future woman saying the same thing to Matthew. Another striking moment was Charlotte’s excited anticipation of what Matthew has written in the guestbook of her first showing, and her heartbreak when she finds he has written “Matthew was here.” I liked the contrast between that scene and the scene when Charlotte scores points as the Jammer, and Francesca responds by screaming “Fuck yeah! That’s my wife!”

    These moments (and many more) were very emotionally evocative and felt very real. Because I was feeling them too, and related very much to them, I felt very connected to Charlotte as she processed things and readied herself to confront the memories and decision she was avoiding.

  • Grace says:

    I’m not much of a fiction reader of late, but I really enjoyed the book. Charlotte’s struggle to get her life together, especially at the beginning of the story resonated a little too close to real life for me. While not related to a breakup, I found that I was depressed earlier this year – having to go to the doctor and ask for help was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I’m still trying to find my way back to my normally even keel, but reading this story gives my more hope that I’ll get there – I just have to keep trying.

    The roller derby scenes were easily the best part of the book. I loved the energy, as well as the explanation of the roller derby rules and terminology. I felt that Pamie showed me a world that I barely knew about, and I want to learn more.

    A great read, and I’ve already recommended the book to a number of my friends.

  • Jennifer says:

    I also wondered how one hides things from your mother for a year, especially if your mother doesn’t live on the other side of the country. I have a nosy enough mother that god knows I couldn’t pull it off for a month.

    I will admit that the John Goodman voice thing was kind of weird to me, maybe because I couldn’t picture him narrating in my head. *shrug* But that’s me.

  • Jacq says:

    I finished this novel today and I really enjoyed it. I could write about why for a very long time (and a lot of it has been said already in this thread), but to pick up on a couple of points other people have raised:

    – I really liked Francesca. She seemed to be a ‘real’ character to me, and certainly the kind of person that I would want around me if I went through a marriage break-up: Charlotte obviously knew that she was sympathetic, but she forced Charlotte to move on and not just sit around. I think that’s really healthy.

    – My take on the miniatures was that Charlotte had started making them as a kid because they require control, and they’re something she was really good at. Her mother sounded like an irrational, abusive nutter to me, so I thought that it sounded likely that a kid for whom things were often denied/removed would eagerly take to doing something that was just hers. Might be totally off base with this idea, but it all made sense to me.

    I liked the John Goodman thing. I just liked all of it. I’ve been reading Pamie’s stuff since the very early days of, and at the risk of sounding like I’m 102 years old (I’m not!), I’m so proud of what she has accomplished. Her writing gets better with every book and I can’t wait to read the next one.

  • Cait (another one) says:

    I enjoyed the book a great deal and gulped it down quickly. I haven’t got that much to add to what’s already been said, but I did think that the John Goodman narration didn’t quite work for me; it seemed a little tacked on or something.

    That said, I liked the characters- I thought Francesca was great, and I thought there was something very subtle about the way Pamie did the drifting from Charlotte’s old best friend – he sort of drops out of our consciousness too, and then reappears, and you’re like ‘huh, good question’.

    The miniatures reminded me of Catherine Keener’s character in Synedoche, NY, who makes those increasingly tiny works of art. Not quite the same thing, obviously, but something about the control, and the artistic vision of a controlled portion of the universe was similar.

  • LG says:

    @ Mertseger – as a derby girl I have to say I didn’t enter the sport seeking physical punishment for anything. I joined it (there’s no way to say this with out sounding like a huge jerk) because I was tired of being better then my competition in the sports I was playing.

    I played varsity sports in college and after college the adult leagues where I lived just don’t have the level of competition that kept things interesting. So I joined derby to learn something from scratch. Some times letting yourself be really really bad at something is nice.

    The thing about rough contact sports is that they keep the things in your life that are frustrating from bugging you too much. It’s a common joke in my league (and probably every derby league in the world) that instead of therapy, we hit other girls.

    I’m not sure that’s liberating, but I’m not playing to be liberated.

  • Mertseger says:

    @LG – I’m glad you joined the discussion. What you’re saying matches similar ideas in the book, and in Whip-It, and in Pamie’s article at Actually, I’m certain there’s a variety of reasons people do roller derby as there are in any sport. And, frankly, I never understood the allure of playing football for other guys. There was the huge prestige US culture places upon that particular sport, of course, but the love of playing the sport itself? I do not particularly get.

    But if we turn our attention back to Charlotte: does part of her want to be punished and another part of her wish to express her anger by being able to hit other people in the relatively acceptable confines of the sport? I think that there is strong argument to be made that despite the use of pseudonyms and costumes in the sport that her relationships within the world of roller derby are more emotionally honest and healthy than (by far) her relationships outside that culture. Charlotte’s (unconscious) motivations might not have been the healthiest for entering that world, is what I’m saying, but the results seem to be quite good for her.

  • Jacq says:

    Although I haven’t been through what Charlotte has been through, I’ve definitely dealt with other types of stress that have made me want to get physical with people, just as a way to vent (which leads me to fantasising about punching annoying people on the train, usually because they sniff all the time instead of blowing their noses). So I can totally see the appeal of roller derby if you were filled with the kind of rage that a big break-up can generate.

    When I was reading the book I thought that roller derby sounded too bonkers to be believed. However, guess what I was googling last night? I’ve already sussed out two London-based teams…

  • (another) LG says:

    I really enjoyed the book and would second many of the positive comments made here. But am I the only one who found the introduction to roller derby to ring a bit false? Sure there were obvious clues (bruises on Francesca) which were foreshadowing what was to come, but the transition from Charlotte as office drone to Charlotte as roller derby trainee just felt forced. I never felt a progression in Charlotte’s character that led to that point – to her openness to roller derby. Charlotte’s actions overall often confounded me – why waffle for so long, why stick with him at all after the smashing incident, etc? I just never quite “got” the character. I think I wanted her to be stronger than she was. Sometimes she exhibited that strongness, but at other times she didn’t, and that lack of consistency felt odd to me.

    But again – overall, I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to others.

  • Rill says:

    I’m a little late to the party, but wanted to add how much I enjoyed the book. It took me longer than I thought to read it as I actually needed to internally process as I read. The Plan, Matthew buggering off for a month and coming back after changing his mind about the relationship, and Charlotte’s feelings walking on eggshells, relief and anger, security and panic? Been there. The emotions and the feelings were so relatable it took my breath away. I know many of you have wondered about the miniatures and why they were included in the book, for me, I actually had to put the book down for a few days and say whoa, WHOA…where is this going?
    You see, I saw much of the world in ¼ and ½ inch for the last 2 years of university, as I was taking courses in scenic design and had to make set pieces for school and miniatures of my own living spaces – after my relationship was over, I immersed myself in these creations and carved, stained, molded, and glued my way through the loneliness and the sleepless nights. (Seriously, were you in my brain, Pamie?)
    And damn, I wish I had the money to have bought a Fuck You television back then!

  • Krista says:

    Another one late to the party, but I just finished reading GIC about 10 minutes ago. I have been reading Pamie for I don’t even know how long now, but this is the first of her books that I have picked up, mainly because of the roller derby aspect. I was obsessed with it as a child of the 70’s, I watched “RollerGirls” and have a Putas Del Fuego shirt that I wear completely without irony every chance I get.

    The part that resonates the most for me is Charlotte just basically dropping out of her life and being in stasis, not making any decisions. I have been doing that exact thing for, well, for far too long, and if I was closer to 30 than 40 I would be getting myself to a roller derby track posthaste. So I guess I’m just looking for whatever my ‘roller derby’ will be to pull me out of this funk, because damn it is getting old. Luckily for me, much like Charlotte, I have awesome people around me, so it’s just a matter of time. But the point I am trying to make is, it just illustrated to me that I need to get on with my life, do things that scare me, and start making some decisions. Thanks, Pamie, for that.

  • Katie says:

    It took me forever to get the book from my library! Sorry for the late response…

    I, like many of the people on the thread, found it a quick and gripping read. Now that I think back on it, though, I’m not sure how much I liked it. While I’m not the world’s biggest fan of happy endings (or unmitigated happy endings, I guess), I also like a book to be hopeful, and I found slogging through Charlotte’s misery really painful. There’s a point in the book when her friend Andy calls her out for being a narcissist, and I think that he nails it–and she hears him and understands him and does nothing to change! The mystery surrounding the deterioration of her marriage was a bit overdone, I think, which ended up baffling me more than anything for most of the book. And when it comes right down to it, although she works through to the point where she’s decided to leave her husband, he’s the one who does the leaving. I really loved the roller derby parts and I found Francesca, Andy, and Jonathan generally much-needed spots of brightness, but this book didn’t click for me.

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