From the outside, Paulie’s life looks pretty good – successful, married older sister, pest of an older brother, a mother who’s one of the ladies who lunch, a father who rides the train into the city every day and pays the bills, and of course, tons of friends to laugh and gossip with every day. But when you turn her life around and look at it from the inside, it’s not all that great.

the shape of my mother’s fist. There’s an uglier

in the kitchen. In front of my dad. And never once

like a school crossing guard, and said Stop.

with the hairbrush. She might narrow her eyes

the backhanded half of punishment was my dad

And that was before the night that changed everything, before their family splintered apart the way doors and windows splintered when the crackhead broke into Mimi’s house screaming, waving a machete, ready to kill them all. That was when Mimi’s marriage splintered, when she refused to live in the shattered house, and moved back with her family. That was before everyone realized that after Mom, Paulie, and Mimi barricaded themselves in an upstairs bedroom, Jeremy didn’t stay and help Dad fight off the madman, but instead, hid under the basement stairs with all the dogs and prayed no one would find him. That was before Dad nearly died that night from the heart attack that could have splintered the family even more. And that was before the realization came of what that night had really done to them, and how there were all stuck in the feelings and emotions they’d experienced that night: Dad weakened, Mimi hurting, Paulie raging in futile anger, Jeremy afraid and withdrawn, and Mom trying to put back together what was damaged beyond repair.

This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.