by Ruba Abu Ali
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Call me Mary . . .” by Evelyn Cole.]
4 out of 4 stars
“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost
Call me Mary… by Evelyn Cole is the memoir of Mary Lou Rutland, who was only five in 1936 when the events started, in Marion, Ohio. Thenceforth, the story spans several decades. Her problem lies in her secret and longstanding craving for sexual encounters with adult men. During her work as a high school teacher in California, she fears her world and profession will shatter. But this is only one part of the story; as she is also worn out by guilt for not loving her sexual partners. By the same token, she struggles with the expression of her sexuality at a time when such a thing was stigmatized.
The story answers hanging questions such as, what is the root for her problem? Will she be able to hide her sex addiction? Can she transcend? More importantly, will she be able to find true love?
In this literary fiction, the author uses Mary’s first-person narrative, in a straight, clear, and engaging writing style. I was shaken by the candid recollection of the events, the authenticity of the embroidered emotions, and the brutal honesty of her internal monologue.
Cole does a wonderful job personifying her characters. They are humanly flawed, and their actions were often a reflection of the times they lived in. Take Mary’s character, for instance; it is well-built, real, and relatable. I was also pleased with the maturity she developed over the years. The supporting characters involve the men she sleeps with, her siblings, and two females she befriends. These are also well-rounded and believable. Of special appeal is the dramatic evolution of the characters as time went by.
Interestingly, the driving force of the events isn’t much about the plot, as it is about the details of Mary’s sexual encounters, as well as her inner turmoil and guilt.
Furthermore, the author’s sarcastic sense of humor added such lightheartedness to the prose, “Your mother wants to know what you can do with a major in anthropology.” Nothing. I just wanted to know what kind of animal I am. “I’ll find something. It’s 1953, Dad, not ’33.”
Mary also says, “I hated flying commercially. Everyone on the plane seemed to be in a bad mood while the flight attendants smiled like teen-aged actors.”
Moreover, I was enthralled by the intertwining of wit and wisdom. Here’s an example, “Although well fed, clothed, and sheltered, even given college tuition, a child who’s been ignored suffers as much as those who have been beaten or insulted every day. It’s hard to develop a sense of self when deprived of reflection from others, and especially touch.”
I particularly appreciated the dynamics of the relationship and the conversations between Mary and her brother Allen. That said, the only thing I may have been unsatisfied with is the scarce interactions between Mary and her son Billy. I would have liked to see their relationship touched upon with more detail, especially because Mary mentions her son has saved her life on more than one occasion.
I highly recommend this book to those seeking a character-driven page-turner that deals with such a thorny issue as sex addiction in a most candid, transparent, and witty manner. Additionally, readers looking for a book that portrays the resilience and valor of human spirit in the face of adversity are bound to be satisfied with Call Me Mary… However, I must add a clear warning to younger audiences, due to the explicit intimate details.
I fell under the impression that the book is professionally edited, as I only encountered two trivial typographical errors throughout the whole book, namely a missing letter. The pristine editing added to the smoothness and enjoyment of the reading experience. Hence, it is with pleasure that I give Call Me Mary… by Evelyn Cole 4 out of 4 stars.
Cole’s words linger in the mind long after they are read, “Physical pleasure narrows your attention around whatever is providing the good feeling. Warm emotions coming your way broaden your awareness of the moment. When pleasures are devoid of such warmth, they pull you and anyone else toward obsession and addiction.”