Review by Lisl Zlitni (the latest)
Someone once told me that releasing a first book is akin to hanging one’s soul on a meat hook in a display window for all to see (something like that), and I had to admit that was a pretty good assessment. So when I first received Rossandra White’s debut work, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, I remember thinking it was rather brave of an indie author to release a memoir as her first book.
But White carries her own in this fantastic tale that opens to the morning rhythm of a battered relationship, related in a wry tone that immediately grabs the reader with its spirit, honesty and affection. She likes when she has her semi-estranged husband’s company in the morning and the dogs Sweetpea and Jake’s loveable antics are on display, though the couple’s opposing perspectives continue to drive them apart.
Then, just like that, she comes home from work that evening to a note that reads: “Gone to Mexico. Adios.” But it’s happened before. She isn’t shocked. What gets her is the non-conversations they have as she tries to understand.
“Okay, so are you finally going to tell me what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why do you keep doing this?”
And so the author brings us on a trip down memory lane via stories set in Laguna Beach and her native South Africa, acquainting us to her past experiences with so many of those who have been important parts of her life, including her husband. She tells it like it is, accepting blame as well as assigning. Her style is spare, words economical, yet they are powerfully packed with emotion and layers of element that beckon us to follow her, then wollop with detail that springs up seemingly from nowhere.
“Within minutes the three of us were walking down our rustic dead-end street toward Laguna Canyon Road and the beach, the dogs trailing their leashes. I had to pass Larry’s green van, dubbed the ‘Love Cage,’ parked in the vacant lot next door, a forlorn sight without the battered VW beside it. That van was where we first made love. It was our motel on wheels for a trip up to Northern California ten years earlier to reunite with his two youngest adult daughters, missing for seventeen years after his ex-wife kidnapped them.”
Of course, this suddenness reflects many of White’s own experiences, which she deftly analyzes, looking for clues pointing toward the reasoning behind different events, and succinctly illuminating what she finds. In this manner she transports us through episodes, including with her mentally and physically handicapped brother, Garth, back in South Africa and her beloved pets, one of whom, Sweetpea, is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The book’s compact size is a testament to White’s skill in storytelling, which for some other authors takes a much larger space to do. And it isn’t only economy, but also how she navigates two parallel threads that run linearly until they meet, also representing a time when she herself made the necessary choices regarding addressing the issues once and for all, including her own role within them.
White’s honesty is searing, but the compassion inherent within—from the author but also others, including her husband—and her writing style brings readers into the story as we journey through the years from childhood and miles of South Africa to California. We are so connected with her telling that we shudder or rejoice at her triumphs, embarrassments, fears and achievements, even smaller ones that reflect her coming into her own.
The contradiction reflected in White’s title—the holding fast while still letting go—is a state of affairs the author lives with and we see through most of the work: conversations that say nothing, living apart in the same house, attention weighted with neglect. This plays out in other ways as well, such as her own dedication across thousands of miles, and as she begins to recognize a great deal more self-sufficiency in those she is tasked with caring for, the bearers of whom provide her, in their own unique ways, with a sort of comfort in return.
It is telling to say that the day I received the book in the mail I read five chapters on the way home. The compelling narrative finds in readers a little bit of who each of us are as we seek out our own paths. White subtly deconstructs the past, her journey laden with frankness and humor as her language wraps around us, settling in comfortably in its ability to mirror our own experiences, at the same time being very much her own story. Punctuated with photos giving glimpses into her childhood, as well as matching stories throughout the book, Loveyoubye is a story of growth and forgiveness, an examination of the meaning of love and how to care for one’s self as well as others. Poignant, heart-rending, sweet and funny, White’s dexterous vision and storytelling strength brings together and reconciles opposing worlds, a union that comes with a cost, but one she brilliantly reveals without regret.
Featured article on Lit Central/OC
Featured article on Misha Gericke’s blog, The Five Year Project
“There was something so compelling that kept me reading [Loveyoubye] that I tucked it in my bag when I left for my vacation in the mountains this summer. If you are looking for an author who expresses raw feelings with which we might identify and an exuberance apparent through her words, this book will appeal to you.” ~ Martha Meacham, Story Circle Book Reviews
“Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog is a lovely, honest book written by a woman with the soul of a poet.” ~ “Experienced Reader”–Amazon review
My interview on Laguna Beach’s own fabulous radio station, KX 93.5 with the erudite and charming Tyler Russell. Listen here.
“Loveyoubye is very much about firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings, and the ubiquitous battle between past and future. It reads in part like fiction, packed with dialogue and landscape . . . White reminds us that memoir is not memory, ‘It’s what haunts us.'” ~ Randy Kraft, Laguna Beach Independent
Here’s an interview I did on W3Sidecar.
“(Loveyoubye) is a fantastic read with a lot of heart wrenching moments that will make readers feel sad, compassionate and grateful . . . The slow death of a long marriage and all the events connected to it will make readers laugh and cry at the same time.” Mamta Madhavan for Reader’s
Press Kit available upon request, use Contact Form.