Magdalena Ball's latest novel, Sleep Before Evening, is a compelling story about a young girl trying to cope with a dysfunctional home and the death of her beloved grandfather, she only person she was ever close to.
Seventeen-year old Marianne is a straight-A student and a gifted pianist with a promising future. In spite of her dysfunctional home — her father left her when she was a baby and her mother is an emotionally unstable artist who jumps from one relationship to another — Marianne manages to maintain a certain level of normality thanks to the warm, close bond she shares with her level-headed, wise grandfather… that is, until she witnesses his death.
Unable to cope with grief, Marianne abruptly neglects her studies and ventures into the dangerously seductive world of the big city. In the seedy streets of New York, she meets Miles. Much older than her, and infinitely appealing with his pale skin, long black hair, and free musician ways, he pulls her into his world, a world of booze, drugs and sex. Fallen to addiction, Marianne succumbs into a dark vortex that threatens to consume her, body and soul.
Will she find the strength to be true to herself and reject the world that is destroying her? Will she be able to reconnect with her mother and long lost father before it's too late? Above all, will she forgive herself first, before forgiving those around her?
This is a beautiful, engrossing novel filled with haunting images and lyrical passages. Ball has done an excellent job creating her characters' tumultuous lives. Especially with Marianne, the author has managed to create a sense of detachment that is not only evident from the young protagonist's thoughts and behavior but also from the language itself. This detachment makes Marianne an unsympathetic character at times, yet she always shines with genuineness. In the end, this is Ball's greatest skill: to present us a very real portrait of a sad girl fallen to drugs, and this portrait isn't always beautiful, just as it isn't in real life. Sleep Before Evening is a riveting coming-of-age novel, one I highly recommend to the serious reader.