“Even she, reduced to a thumbnail,/ has her side to tell.” — Privilege by Mary Adkins, a line from the poem that opens the book.
Privilege, a narrative about life after date rape, is an entertaining tale difficult to leave down as it straddles the uneasy line between comedy and tragedy. Annie, our first-person narrator, takes us into a world new to her, carrying some interesting baggage, that of a burnt bassoonist with an unexpected scholarship, a step up the class ladder. In this adeptly interwoven and intriguing narrative–a triangulation of three women from diverse backgrounds and perspectives–the reader experiences the second coming-of-age in a high-end college with its inherent challenges.
As I get to know Annie I want to help carry the weight of what life thrusts at her like a close friend might, but it is far more satisfying to watch her figure out adult life for herself, including who to turn to and who to trust. Female friendships are fraught with confusion which makes Annie deeply relatable. In fact, all three main characters share this sense of isolation that leaves them vulnerable in varying ways. Seeing a troubling situation from many different points of view, beyond the close-up of the three women, left me contemplating my own views on personal responsibility and how our culture approaches justice.
It is a book that will leave the reader thinking long after she puts it down, especially if she’s a writer trying to figure out how to craft such a work.
These characters refuse to be reduced to thumbnails and they will keep you awake.