Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: What We've Lost is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder

Whoa! That was one wild ending. Did not expect that!

One small neighborhood in Chicago's west suburb of Oak Park falls victim to a string of burglaries. These burglaries happen in succession during broad daylight to a community that has been built on the theory of diversity assurance. This string of home invasions leaves each neighbor questioning their neighbors, community, and the culprit(s). Over the course of 24 hours, Rachel Louise Snyder exposes the highs and lows of what it means to want to live in an ideal world of diversity, yet ultimately falls victim to reality.

What We've Lost is Nothing sparked my interest because I'm born and raised in Illinois. I live North of the city but have traveled to the city's west side many times. I have family who lives past the city's west side in suburbs that neighbor Oak Park. I've been to Oak Park. It reminds me of where I live. And it definitely feels a 100x's safer than the city's west side. There I go behaving and making assumptions like the people of Ilios Lane.

Although Snyder shifts focus between the neighbors who reside on this cul-de-sac, the most well developed characters I felt were the McPherson's. Mary Elizabeth McPherson is actually home, cutting school in fact, while her family's home is being ransacked by burglars. Mary's mother, Susan, works in realty showing homes for those hoping to rent in diverse locations. Michael McPherson also showcases in this novel initially as a leader but then...

What We've Lost is Nothing brings to light the ideas and prejudices many keep to themselves. It only takes a few hours before the speculating surfaces. The Cambodian family didn't lose much so they must be culprits. Not to mention their cousins that look so out of place as they loiter on this pristine block. Or... it just maybe could be those usual gang-banger west side guys that is heard to be hanging out on the border of the Oak Park suburb and the crazy projects of Chicago's west side. You know the guys who's pants fall off their a**es, with the tattoos, and the drug money in their pockets. It could even be the neighbor from up the street who was supposed to be in Paris but isn't. 

As if it weren't enough to add insult to injury with all the preconceived notions and finger pointing, Snyder supplies us with blog posts with commentary. Most of the time I had feelings of anger coupled with disgust for some of these characters. Then I sat back and thought to myself, wouldn't I feel the same way? Would I think that just because the Cambodian family didn't have much to steal, and they're minorities, they must have had something to do with the burglaries. Completely oblivious to the fact that they have more than enough money in the bank to send their daughter to any school of her choice. Or those cousins that loiter are actually stellar students that have their futures perfectly mapped out.

Would I, like many of the characters, place the blame where it so often finds itself? On poor blacks. It's always so easy to blame the people we don't know or assume we know because of the portrait that's painted on the nightly news. The purpose of living in a diverse neighborhood is to quash those misunderstandings. The citizens of Ilios Lane fell short big time of this virtue. 

What We've Lost is Nothing is a great debut novel that will make readers reflect on what matters most when their personal space has been invaded. It begs to question what does it say about us as individuals when we point the finger of blame when we think its safe not to be politically correct. There is so much to discuss from this novel so I recommend it for a group read. It's social implications are profound and relevant. I look forward to reading more by Rachel Louise Snyder.  ****

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