I haven’t read anything written by Jaclyn Moriarty before. Even so, this book had me entranced for two whole days. Nothing wrong with that, I’m not complaining. By comparison, though, with several other books that have nailed me to a seat for two days, what was different this time was that when I finished reading it last night, I sat and hugged the book to my chest and cried. And this morning, my waking thoughts were about the story. Uh-huh, it had a profound effect on me.
At the start, there’s tremendous levity to Moriarty’s writing: jokey prose, funny stories, amusing asides. Reading it felt like getting to know a new friend; the social behaviours with which newly-met people use humour to engage with one another, establish connections, unveiling themselves incrementally, subtly, gently. This banter lasted for just the right number of chapters, some of which are very short. There are lots of exclamation marks; I’m not a fan, but Moriarty carries this off without causing annoyance. Any longer, however, and I’d have lost interest, mirroring real life encounters, I suppose. So, kudos to Moriarty for managing the humorous writing pace with such skill in the first quarter of the book.
I’ve commented about book covers in previous reviews, and I confess that I didn’t choose this book because of that. Rather, it was the quote from JoJo Moyes that clinched it for me:
‘I loved this book. It’s rare for me to have no idea where the story is headed, but I only knew that I didn’t want it to end …’
With that calibre of recommendation, I felt safe in the writer’s hands, then sat back and enjoyed the ride.
It was the humanness, in particular, of the story that really got under my skin: how the protagonist, Abigail Sorensen, approaches her childhood and upbringing; documents her adulthood; life’s curveballs; happiness, loss and grief. From-the-heart tales about Abigail’s search for life’s meaning through ‘self-help’ books, are written in an anecdotal way; all so plausible, authentic, funny and poignant, and I did laugh out loud several times at these observations.
As the story unfolds, it skilfully portrays scenarios of how we humans delude ourselves with our internal stories, mostly in order to appease lifestyle choices, parenting, relationships, good and bad things that happen in our lives. Also, I found Abigail’s observations about life fascinating, visceral, honest, achingly true. Here, Abigail is describing her Sydney neighbourhood, Neutral Bay, like this:
‘There’s diversity here, but it’s concealed behind uniforms. There are broken people here, but they’re pinned together with therapy, Botox, hair dye, and designer clothes, rage pegged down with hot stone massages, soothed by high-functioning alcoholism.’
It was at this stage that I felt me and Abigail were becoming firm friends; she was someone I wanted to hang out with, hence two days anchored to the recliner with this book propped on a cushion.
Then there’s Abigail’s honesty about parenting, too, which was refreshing and delivered in accessible authentic prose:
‘I used to hear people complaining about questions children asked, all their ‘whys’. And I thought: So easy! Just answer! What’s the issue, you strange, complaining parents?
That’s what I thought.
Now I want to claw out my eyes sometimes, at the questions, the days and days of questions. Life is a non-stop pop quiz, and I’m always failing.’
By now, Abigail and I were BFFs. I couldn’t put the book down, and reluctantly got up to eat my dinner.
On my return to reading, reminders of life at the turn of the century (this one, folks, this one), made me straighten the cushions and pay attention, as I remembered where I was that New Year’s Eve, what I was doing, and how ridiculous it all was in hindsight:
‘There were two important things about the approaching year 2000 – first, the pressure that the artist formerly known as Prince had placed on us by defining the ultimate party as that which takes place on the last day of 1999; and second, the fact that the world was going to be wiped out by the millennium bug (presumably while throwing Prince’s party).
I’m not the only reader to be captivated by this book – the following high praise on the rear cover of my hardback copy of Gravity is the Thing, comes from our very own Marian Keyes:
‘[it] … is one of the most magical, different, interesting, likable, lovable, beautiful, sad, lovely, immensely uplifting books I have ever read. I read it in an agony of loving it but also being so humbled by the fact that if I lived to be 7,022 years old, I would never be able to write a book as good as this.’
Dear reader, I absolutely concur with Marian’s use of all those fitting adjectives. Gravity is a Thing is a triumph of a book. In three words, it is funny, heartbreaking, compassionate, and I highly recommend.
(c) Jo Nestor
Jo Nestor is a retired Adult Educator. Her writing features in the 2021 edition of the broadsheet, Autumn Leaves; also, the 2021 edition Leitrim Guardian. She was long-listed in June 2020 for the FISH memoir competition, and won the 2020 Leitrim Guardian Literary Award. She chooses to live in hope.
Order your copy online here.