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Love We Don't Understand by Bart Moeyaert is a troubling and often unnerving
novel about a very dysfunctional family. The brief novel contains three
vignettes from this familys existence over a period of approximately two
setting of It's Love We Don't Understand
is never given, but one may guess that it is the authors country of Belgium,
however, the exact location is not important to the plot. The protagonist of
the novel is an unnamed girl. Vignette One entitled The End of Bordzek, Told
by Myself who was There is set along a road on the way to Bonnies house.
(Bonnie is the eldest child in the family.) Axel, the elder brother in the
family, stops the car and gets out. His mother, Bordzek, her boyfriend, Vlad,
his dog, and the protagonist are in the backseat. Her younger sister, Edie is
in the front seat. The mother gets out and an argument breaks out between her
and her son that eventually evolves to include her boyfriend. The protagonist
and her younger sister walk away while Vlad, the dog and the only one enjoying
this unscheduled stop, is running through the roadside field barking. Vignette
Two entitled Boatmans Arrival is set in the familys home. The mother
receives a letter that her mother has died and that according to her will the
Boatman who has cared for her prior to her death has been bequeath to the
family and will be coming to live with the family. The family speculates about
exactly who the Boatman is and how much money and other wealth he might be
bringing with him. The mother and the protagonist go to the train station to meet
the Boatman. They are sadly, disappointed. The third and final vignette is
entitled What are they doing over there in Charlestown? is again set in the
family home. The mother is gone, the son has moved to Charlestown. (Although,
he is still visually present in the house.) Bonnie is there to watch over the
Boatman, the protagonist, and Edie, youngest sister. Bonnie and the protagonist
speculate about Axel and his new life outside the home. Edie shimmies down the
drainpipe and nonsensical verbal commentary is added by the Boatman. That is
it. That is everything that happens in the novel.
It's Love We Don't Understand is
mercifully short. While it is emotional intense and graphic, the lack of
information about the characters left me feeling uninvolved. It felt like a
drive-by viewing of a very disturbed family. While the scenes may draw
attention for a moment, my interest was soon waning. Vignette one was graphic
and vignette three was just plain uninteresting and confusing. Vignette two
holds the most potential and would actually make a very fine short story. The
fixedness of the characters to a limited setting within each vignette lends
itself well to the stage. Unfortunate the lack of drama may make this a better
classroom exercise than a successful stage production.
Bart Moeyaert is a Belgium author.
He was been nominated twice for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. At the age
of 19-years, he published his first book, Duet
out of Tune (1983) that was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Children
and Youth Jury (1984). His other books include, Suzanne Dantine (1989); Kiss Me
(1992 - Book Lion award); Bare Hands
(1996 - Book Lion award and the Golden Pencil Award); and Wasps' Nest (1997 a rewriting of Suzanne Dantine). Brothers, a collection of short theatrical pieces, will be published in 2002/3.
It's Love We Don't Understand by Bart
Moeyaert is a confusing and not terrible interesting muddle. Short, but not so
sweet. As another reviewer put it, Its this book I do not understand. I must
agree. I do not recommend this book.
© 2002 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from
New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the
United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at
Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested
in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area
of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian
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