We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is so painfully beautiful that I am yet to cure the hangover of it after I finished reading. It is a story about a late teenager named Marin Delaney who is raw with desolation as she desperately moved to New York for her college from the California coast. When I started reading the book, it definitely had the sadness undertone in its writing. You can feel what Marin talks about when she is nervous about her best friend from her past visiting her for 3 days in her hostel while all she wants is to be left alone during the Christmas break.
Mabel is an endearing friend of Marin; best friend and a lover (once upon a time). The book will make you fall in love with Marin because of her perseverance to reach Mabel and pull her out of her suffering that she faced back at her home. Marin lost her mother when she was a child and grew up with her last surviving family member-her grandfather, whom she referred to as Gramps. Their relationship is not a sad one. But one might find it very formal. Both lived under the same roof but they wouldn’t enter each other’s bedroom at any cost. They prepared food, ate together, Gramps loved playing cards with a bottle of whiskey with few of his friends and he drives Marin to school regularly. He had the habit of writing letters to Birdie, whose identity Marin never gets to know nor she wants to as long as gramps is happy writing.
And in our house, we enjoyed our togetherness but we enjoyed our apartness, too.Marin
The writing progresses alternating each chapter with Marin’s past and her present situation where Mabel visits her and tries to understand why she left without saying anything and avoided her all this time she was in New York. Marin is melancholic with loss of Gramps and what she discovers after he disappears one night. She feels she deserves an ending with a definite answer but never finds one. Everything she faces is hanging in the air, like a room in which the windows were never let open to breathe. Her realizations, her denial and acceptance of facts and truths and facing all of it with vulnerability in front of Mabel puts Marin in an arduous healing process.
It’s a dark place, not knowing.Marin
It’s difficult to surrender to.
But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.
There is warmth to how Mabel helps Marin even though she had no other option but to move on when Marin never called back. Her love never dissipated but she felt that Marin should have at least answered back once to her nine hundred texts that she sent after Marin left without any notice. They both recall their tender moments of love, laughter, touch and the separateness that they feel now when left alone. There are moments that change a person drastically- love, death, accident, separation etc. Mabel as her closest friend understands the space that Marin requires to heal with all that has been happening to her in the past. With utter loneliness, grief and void that Marin constantly felt, Mabel was a godsend. And so are her parents who love Marin so much — Ana and Javier.
The simplicity of understanding the chaos that one goes through with severe sadness is written in a sublime manner. The author pens down such beautiful inner monologues that I couldn’t stop re-reading and underlining so I could get back to it without any hassle. I confess I did tear up at times because I was reminded by my own grandmother’s death a few years back. Nobody is fully prepared to accept such a grave thing. So when it happens, it does take a toll on you, one way or another. You can only leave it on time to heal fragments of you but the longing remains.
I wonder if there’s a secret connection that connects people who have lost something. Not in the way that everyone loses something, but in the way that undoes your life, undoes your self, so that when you look at your face it isn’t yours anymore.Marin
Note — The ending is a dream come true like you never expected.
Would highly recommend this book if you lately have not been feeling the blues. It has that pinching feel of loneliness that everyone suffers in various forms at disparate stages of their lives.
P.s- Thank you to my intelligent dear friend who gifted me this book as my farewell present. You gave me a story I fell in love with.