I have never been more in love with a book and at the same time been so confused and uneasy. After Delores by Sarah Schulman is an intense novel about a woman who is devastatingly heartbroken, but her name is an unsolved mystery throughout the book.
I thought this was very clever because it takes away the narrator-to-character relationship and makes the narrator-to-reader relationship more intimate. This book focuses on lesbians in the late 1980s and does a good job at showing different types of characters.
We have our main character who comes off as an androgynous or butch lesbian. She is attracted to feminine women who have different sides to their characters.
These women include Delores, her most recent love and heartbreak, who one minute is completely devoted to their relationship and the next minute is horrifically hostile and jumps into a new relationship.
We also meet Punkette, a young, out lesbian who is infatuated with Charlotte, who embodies lust and nativity, but unfortunately is also a victim of a murder.
Charlotte is older actress who gets stuck between the truth and lies of her reality and her acting. She is in a relationship with Beatriz, an intelligent and complex woman who knows of Charlotte’s infidelity and lies, but loves her nonetheless.
We also meet Priscilla, an independent, feminine woman who enjoys role playing, but who is also a badass.
Finally, we meet our main character’s best friend, Coco Flores, who is a hopeless romantic with a brutally honest personality and an extremely edgy look.
Each character is so intense that you fall in love with all of them. You can relate to them all in very different ways, which is thought provoking because all these women are individuals but I can relate to a part of each of them.
Each character plays immense roles in the development of our main character. They inspire her, scare her, trust her, hate her, want her, teach her, break her down, build her back up and free her from herself.
Because this book is based in the late 1980s, it also touches on some interesting queer culture. Beatriz is an older lesbian and came from a place and time where to be gay meant to be hidden and unspoken of. But as we meet the younger lesbians, like Punkette and even our main character, Beatriz points out that being out is becoming more acceptable and that the younger lesbians don’t have anything holding them back; they can grow up showing their queerness and act on it as they see fit. This also seems to spoil the intense secrecy that comes with being gay.
I think this book makes me so uneasy because we start to see that our main character is an alcoholic and becomes more obsessive over substances and people as the book goes on. While reading it, I was hoping that there would be a sort of an epiphany for our main character and she would shake herself out of the control and obsession Delores left her with.
I was a bit disappointed and shocked, but it occurred to me that the author was being very honest and wanted to show that we always see substances to be addictive, whether it is alcohol or drugs, but we fail to see that love can also be an addiction.
There is always that one person or one thing who your heart relentlessly tries to pull you back too. Delores is the center of the universe in this book; she destroys our main character and thus sends her on a whirlwind of events that are all to try and get over Delores. And once they all settle, Delores has never left the picture. The main characters love for Delores is, unfortunately or fortunately, her untreatable addiction.