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The Untelling    by Tayari Jones order for
by Tayari Jones
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Warner, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Untelling, Tayari Jones unfolds, in the present and through flashbacks, the impact on a young woman of childhood trauma - the guilt that she feels, the secrets that she keeps, and the damage that both do to her life. Though that may seem a stark subject, humor (as in the mother's regular complaints that 'That is not what Dr. King died for') frequently intervenes to lighten the account.

When Ariadne was nine, her father and six-month old sister were killed in a car accident. Aria remained for a time in the car with her dying father, and has never forgiven herself for failing to comfort him. Her mother has acted oddly ever since, and her elder sister, Hermione, escaped the weirdness by marrying a father figure, her dad's best friend, Mr. Phinazee. The three women are distanced from each other, though all still remain in Atlanta. After college, Aria worked briefly with her mother at the Institute for the Blind. Not surprisingly, this did not work out, and she moved on to the Literary Action and Resource Center, where her best college friend Rochelle later joined her. They share a 'fixer-upper that hasn't been fixed up yet' in the run-down West End, with crackheads for neighbors. Rochelle, from a wealthy background, is engaged to Rod. Aria's locksmith boyfriend, Dwayne, is 'the type of man that made you just want to climb up and hide in his branches.'

As the book begins, Aria's period is late and she's convinced that she's pregnant. She lets the cat out of the bag prematurely, tells friends and family, and convinces Dwayne to marry her. Then she sees a doctor and faces a different reality. What does she do? She lies, fearing that Dwayne will leave her, still feeling unworthy of anything good in life. Through many tribulations, Ariadne learns that there's no such thing as moving on, but 'there is such a thing as passing through.'

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