(Sleep before Evening by Magdalena Ball, BeWrite Books, 2007)
#1 Magdalena Ball’s Sleep Before Evening recounts a year in the life of 17-year-old Marianne, gifted pianist and straight-A student. A dazzling future lies ahead of her with a full scholarship to NYU as a stepping-stone. Then life rears its fickle head: her beloved grandfather dies, and her mother’s unpredictable manic moods leave her feeling disoriented and betrayed. Seeking refuge on the anonymous streets of lower Manhattan’s west side, she meets the beguiling twentysomething Miles who offers her comfort and the sweet taste of oblivion.
And so begins a young girl’s dark journey into night as she takes her first baby steps on the downward spiral of drug addiction. Though the reader might surely want to look away (as this one did), Ball does not. She renders every graphic detail in vivid color and with a fine, unflinching brush. We go with Marianne as she graduates from pot to heroin and pipe to needle. We follow close behind as she crawls willingly into the unthinkable places only hardcore addicts go. We watch her life predictably unravel, and Ball creates such a feeling of intimacy that we feel with Marianne, not just for her.
Magdalena Ball demonstrates her mastery of the musicality of language and many scenes are imbued with striking imagery. Though the early scenes with Miles seem to follow romance plot formula, I surmised later on that Ball is telling the story always, and correctly, from Marianne’s viewpoint, and of course, her experience of the world — before her headlong plunge into the dark side of it — is innocent, seen through the eyes of a young romantic, and the writing reflects her transition from child to adult.
As the drama coils tighter and tighter, it is this quality of writing that keeps the reader utterly glued. As Marianne struggles with her demons and we almost hold our breath as she nears her eighteenth birthday, Magdalena Ball’s Sleep Before Evening shows us that in order to find yourself, you sometimes have to lose yourself first.
Published at “Roses & Thorns”, August 03, 2007