Mara Foster's parents split up on Christmas Day when she was 5 years old. They started fighting over the bike her dad bought her. There were probably other reasons but that's how Mara perceived it. Throughout her growing up years her parents fought and basically hated each other. Mara spent a lot of time alone as her mother had to work two jobs and her father didn't care what she did. Though she had problems in school, she was expected to fix them herself. By the time she was in junior high, she was getting drunk and skipping classes with her best friend Bernadette. In high school, she starts sleeping around but finds that she is passionate about art. She then strives to learn all she can about art.
Bernadette becomes with Mara in junior high. They do just about everything together and know each other's secrets. In high school, Bernadette tells Mara she is gay which scares Mara, not because of the sexual orientation but Mara is afraid that she will loose Bernadette to her girl friend and they will not be friends any more.
In college, Mara dates and lives with Lucas. Lucas is also an artist and is considered brilliant. Mara also meets Eric in college when Eric was a model in one of her art classes. They decide to have sex even though Mara is in a relationship with Lucas. She doesn't know Lucas and Eric are half brothers.
As an adult, she meets and falls in love with Hugo. Hugo is a vet and generally a really nice guy.
This book was strange. For at least the first half of the book I was furious with all the adults that were in young Mara's life. She needed counseling so bad it hurt and yet didn't get any. Even as an adult, many of the people she was around seemed to be just using her. Mara had so many hang ups that she could spend a fortune and years in therapy. You did find out that she had some counseling but also that she thinks that she can fix all of her problems herself.
The chapters are very short which is good. Each chapter deals with a small segment of Mara's life. Some of current, some are her past. There is no logical order for any of them. If you pay attention, the whole story does finally evolve but it takes a while.
Except for Mara and Bernadette none of the characters have real depth to them. You know Hugo is a vet, owns a dog, lives on the second floor of a house but you don't really know him, his dreams or even where he works. Erik, while in much of the book, is just there. You know that even Mara doesn't know much about him when she comments when she sees him in a club that she guesses he must have a life outside of his apartment.
While I'm sure that the point of this book was to show the growth that Mara has and how well she deals with her issues, I found Mara to be a pathetic character that without intervention will probably never be able to cope with the real world and relationships. Perhaps instead of ignoring the problems of mental abuse and psychological problems, Ms Younge-Ullman could have shown Mara accepting that she has problems and can get professional help for them while still being accepted by those she cares about. Pretending problems aren't there doesn]t make them go away.
A "fearless, penetrating debut" (Tish Cohen, author of Town House) about a troubled artist who has painted herself into a corner
After surviving a turbulent childhood, Mara Foster has finally gained independence and success as a painter. Now in her late twenties, she lives alone, still burdened by a troubled past involving a teenaged affair with an older man and the tragic loss of her college boyfriend. But when Mara meets Hugo, the walls she has built around herself begin to crumble. Despite herself, she starts to fall in love and realizes she must either confront her dark secrets or be consumed by them. And either way, she risks losing Hugo and her second chance at happiness.
Written in spare, crisp prose and marked by wry humor, Falling Under is a gripping contemporary urban tale of human weakness, friendship, and hard-earned redemption.