Suddenly is a story about four doctors in practice together in a small town in Vermont. The book largely deals with the results of one of the doctors, Mara, committing suicide.
I appreciated the way Delinsky tackles mourning; it occurs in waves and manifests itself differently in each of the three doctors. Their grief is this tangled, gnarly thing that forces them, and the reader, to look at their friendships, romances, and lives in new ways.
That being said, there are a couple of MAJOR issues with this book.
1) Most troubling is a sexual encounter that is clearly rape but is portrayed as not being so. The man (one of the main characters) barges into the apartment of his hookup, against her will, corners her against a wall, and proceeds to rape her. To not put a too fine a point on it, the penis comes into contact with the vulva, one of Vermont’s definitions of rape.* At the end, when she threatens to prosecute, he says “what happened just now wasn’t rape.” Her reply: “Maybe not in the end, because, you’re right, you know the buttons to push.”
Let me make this crystal clear: HE RAPED HER. Even if she had orgasmed (which she hadn’t) it would have been rape. At no point did she consent. On the contrary, at every point she tells him no, commands him to stop. WHAT HE DID WAS ILLEGAL. According to the Vermont Statutes on sexual assault*, he was breaking the law.
I am not saying that rape shouldn’t be a topic of conversations; quite the contrary. What I am saying is that by Delinsky having both characters say it wasn’t rape, with no indication anywhere else in the book to the contrary, Delinsky is giving the reader the idea that the situation wasn’t as serious as it was. It is harmful to perpetuate the idea that rape is not, in fact, rape, and that people that really have gone through a similar experience don’t have recourse for action.
2) At another point in the book, our male romantic lead enters the home of the main female romantic lead. She, too, continually says no, and he, too, continually ignores her and enters her house, against her will.
Answer me this: WHAT IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE WORD “NO?” We are capable adults. We mean what we say. So if we say no, take us at our word and DON’T DO WHATEVER YOU WERE ABOUT TO DO! It is highly disturbing that Delinsky portrays these situations in such a light. It is not okay for anyone to invade anyone else’s personal space without consent, whether it be private property or one’s own body.
3) I recognize that Delinsky probably didn’t have control over her cover; however, it deserves mention. What race would you say that baby is on the cover? White, right? Guess what race the baby is in the book. Indian. That is not an Indian baby on the cover. There is, sadly, a word for this practice: whitewashing. This is when a cover portrays a non-white character as white. Read this article for a discussion of why this is a big issue that needs to be addressed.
Because of these issues, I can’t recommend this book.
*With sexual assault laws being different from state to state, I researched the specific laws concerning the state in which the book takes place, though he raped her by definition of every state in the United States.