Come As You Are
The answer of whether or not you will like Theresa Weir’s Come As You Are depends on how much escapism you need in a story versus your willingness to delve into a dark character study of girl with serious issues. You won’t smile a lot reading this book, but you will probably keep turning the pages to see what happens. At least this was my experience.
While everyone around her thinks the death of her father is tragic, twenty-two-year-old Molly Young knows the truth. Beneath his upstanding college professor persona, Molly’s adoptive father was a monster. She’s glad he’s gone, and even faking any real grief during his wake proves too much to handle. Needing to escape, Molly bolts to the nearest bar. After a few too many, she wakes up in bed with a complete stranger and little memory of how she got there or what happened during the night. Slinking away before the mystery guy wakes up, she heads home for a shower and some aspirin before an appointment with her father’s attorney who wants to discuss something important about her father’s will. What Molly never expects is to find the stranger from the night before sitting in the attorney’s office.
Ian Young has been summoned from California to Minneapolis because his birth father, a man he’s never met, has died and left Ian everything. His house. His savings. A “half-sister” that Ian never even knew he had. This fact is even more troublesome considering that Ian came thisclose to sleeping with a drunken Molly the night before. Despite the fact that nothing happened between them, his (eventual) discovery that Molly was adopted and not actually a blood relative is a huge relief. Not so comforting to Ian is the fact that all Molly’s father has left her is the token sum of $500 that precludes her from contesting his will.
Feeling guilty that Molly is basically disinherited, Ian tells her she is welcome to live in the house until he decides what he wants to do with it. Molly refuses, having moved out years ago and not willing to return to a place so full of bad memories. But due to a culmination of circumstances, Molly finds that she has no choice but to return to her childhood home. When she arrives, she sees that Ian has been busy tearing out carpeting and getting rid of old furniture and junk. He expects her to be upset by the changes he’s made, however Molly is thrilled. She rolls up her sleeves and picks up a paintbrush, ready to help.
As they work together to remove the shadows from the house, Ian and Molly finally consummate what started the night of their father’s funeral. Their sexual connection is solid, but Molly refuses to allow herself to get truly close to anyone. Every relationship she’s ever begun has come with a built-in expiration date – the moment when the guy wants to know more about her. When that happens, Molly bolts without any regrets or sad feelings. Except this time, when Ian tries to get closer and she pushes him away, she finds it’s not without real pain. When Ian finally figures out her secret and then discovers something shocking about Molly’s past, it may be just the thing she needs to finally begin the long process of healing.
As a character, Molly is never really very likeable. She’s abrasive, cruel and nearly suicidal through the majority of the book. At different times she faces her car breaking down, sexual mauling by a new roommate, homelessness, and being left pretty much penniless. None of this ever seems to ruffle her, making it very hard for me to relate. She does such a good job pushing people away, the result transcends the page to include the hapless reader. Even so, something about her compelled me to find out how her story ended, much like rubbernecking at a car crash.
Part of the reason for this disconnect, I think, is Weir’s decision to keep Molly’s “secret” for as long as possible. From the first page we know that something about the relationship between Molly and her father was not right, and it’s pretty easy to guess what might have happened. However, we don’t find out for absolute sure until Chapter 24, which is a long time to excuse Molly’s off-putting personality. Too, once the truth is revealed, only the barest details are given. While you may feel validated if you’d guessed correctly, there’s very little of the gasp-inducing shock you’d expect based on the build-up. It’s inarguable that Molly’s father was indeed a monster and that she endured a horrific childhood, but there’s an almost anticlimactic feeling to the whole thing.
As the yin to Molly’s yang, Ian is kind and patient and an upstanding guy, almost too good for someone as messed up as she is. In fact, I’m not even really sure what he saw in Molly that compelled him to stick around, especially given her treatment of him. At least he wasn’t a doormat who took her abuse without fighting back.
Come As You Are is a quick read (my DRC only had 140 pages), and while I found the writing neatly compact and the story briskly told, I had one issue with the pacing. The first half of the book builds up to the relationship between Molly and Ian while the back half covers the aftermath of the relationship’s implosion. Only a paltry chapter or so was given to their time as a couple. While I had no problem believing in the connection between the pair, they spent far more time not being together than actually together.
The story is told from both Molly and Ian’s points-of-view. However, Molly’s parts are in first person while Ian’s are in third person. I’m not sure why this narrative style was chosen, but I found it a bit odd.
As I read back over this review, it seems like I didn’t like this book very much. But that’s not really the case. While I’d never be friends with a real life Molly – she’s simply too hard of a character to ever warm up to – I would listen to her story. If you don’t need a lot of laughs or a flowery love story, you may like it as well.