Almost Crimson is a portrait of a girl, Crimson Weathers, maturing into an independent woman despite the absence of her father, and the negligence of her clinically-depressed mother. Given no other option, CeCe assumes the role of caretaker for her mother as a child—a task that will consume her life from childhood through adulthood. Most chapters transition from the raw, poetic language of CeCe as a child to the banal, grown-up CeCe still caring for her dysthymic mother. The child timeline provides the requisite context for the guilt and stunted growth CeCe still displays as an adult.
Through the crude poetry of her voice, Dasha Kelly has imbued CeCe with a helpless innocence. It is impossible to not care for CeCe after reading sentences like:
“CeCe couldn’t remember when her mother became too weak to carry anything but tears.”
“When CeCe could see the Baker family through their apartment window leaving in their dress-up clothes, CeCe remembered to gather Mama’s underwear with hers and cover them with soap bubbles in the bathtubs.”
CeCe does not see the neglect in these details, nor do they reek of an exaggerated trauma. It is simply her world, her home, her mother, and nothing more. She tells time by counting a chain of fifty-two soda can tabs, so she can remember when Santa Claus will visit. She picks “Danny Lion” flowers for her mother, growing in the cracks of the sidewalk. The poignancy in these details does not lie in what they mean. But rather the language gives the reader the ability to see the world through CeCe’s eyes.
But like CeCe, the novel grows out of the raw poetry of her youth to the plain-spoken style of her adolescence and adulthood. For the duration of the novel, new characters fill in for CeCe’s mother, guiding her through the travails of school, friendship, puberty, sex, and love, while her mother drifts further into the oblivion of depression. The innocence of her youth slips away when she encounters her peers, and, perhaps too slowly, the years of neglect turn into the looping feelings of anger and guilt.
Almost Crimson tries to show the entanglement of love, guilt, and obligation that binds children to their parents. Yet what lacks in CeCe’s world is the tiniest modicum of love between her and her mother. Far from being just neglectful, CeCe’s mother is plain absent in her life throughout the middle of the novel. There’s little interaction between the two characters that would foster any feelings of obligation besides the natural debt one owes to their parents. But yet, CeCe still feels trapped with her mother even though she’s handed every resource to help her leave. Such contradictions create a burdensome tension when each contravening force has been developed to produce such a rift. And unlike the beginning of the novel, I could not grasp the conflicting force driving CeCe to stay, when it seemed obvious to all her friends and family, and even me, the reader, that she should leave.
Curbside Splendor Publishing
(1st Edition) May 26th, 2015