This is probably the hardest review I have had to do yet. Prior to The Thin Wall (Twisted Knickers, 124 pages), I had read two previous books by Cheryl Anne Gardner, The Splendor of Antiquity, and Logos, and The Thin Wall is a radical departure from Gardner’s romantic roots into the realms of darker, subconscious psychology and individual philosophies she masterfully delves into in this work.
One word to describe this book for me? Drastic.
I would lie if I were to say that The Thin Wall is an easy read. It isn’t. The storyline is subtle — woven deep between the actions and events, dialog and behavior — and it is crucial to understanding the story. While utilizing sex as a tool to slice into the depths of human consciousness, this book is not sexual in nature, and neither is it erotica. To be honest, I am not sure if there is another way for me to classify this work other than Literature. Gardner has masterfully adjoined elements of romance, erotica, literary fiction and psychological realism to create a story that is both entertaining and frightening at the same time. At least for me it is. There are scenes in this book that I had a hard time reading, nonetheless, these scenes are indispensable if one is to come to a conclusion at the end. At times lighthearted, at times gruesome and violating, the story follows five characters on their quest for happiness.
United by a common rejection of society and its superficial norms, Laleana, Tom, Cecile, Julian and Ioan live their lives the way they want to. Admirable as this may seem, it comes at a cost — emotional cost. While three of them have in common their well-to-do background, they do not capitalize on the power of their families to achieve any of the goals society deems important. For one, our five friends have completely different desires; at the same time, they are nonconformists. While their sexual behavior is somewhat extravagant (in my eyes) it is a major part of the story itself. But as with everything else in this work, even the sex is a metaphor. The story deals with love and the pain of loving; it deals with codependency, submission, voluntary torture (be it psychological or physical, accepted or self-inflicted) and most importantly, with trust. The kind of trust only a few of us may experience (or be able to give), the kind of trust only very good friends are capable of.
The story is told through the eyes of Laleana, a librarian and a writer. Gardner’s portrayal of the character is immaculate — an intelligent, educated, independent woman whose love for the written word comes through even in the most casual of conversations. And this is where Gardner truly shines — having read her earlier works, Gardner, as an author, is growing. From a literary standpoint, The Thin Wall, in my opinion, is her best work yet. The language is eloquent and even poetic at times, and no words appear wasted. However, there is something about this work that did bother me. A subconscious “me” was struggling with the conscious “me”… an inner battle I have not experienced in quite some time. Does this make The Thin Wall any less appealing? Certainly not. I am sure that there will come a time when I will reach for this book and read it again. Perhaps, with a different mindset than the first time, I will discover some hidden meanings which might have escaped me the first time. But such is the case with any piece of good literature.
One thing is for certain: The Thin Wall will not leave you cold. Whether you will find yourself emotionally involved, shocked, cursing, disgusted or with a hard-on, (or perhaps all of it), The Thin Wall will seep under your skin and stay there for quite a while. And so will Gardner — an upcoming author whose works are only getting more intense with each new release.
–Henry Martin, author of The Mad Days of Me (2007).
Excerpt from The Thin Wall
“How egotistical and prickish some might say, but Julian’s temperament bordered on the lunatic fringe most of the time. His attitude — his very being — was at odds with everything, as it was for all of them. Grounded in anarchy, his pretense was impossible to decipher and downright intolerable to all but the hardiest of temperament. Laleana, Tom, Cecile, and Ioan were of such a disposition, but even then, they never knew what to expect from him, and they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
So with little desire for additional confrontation, they looked on as he made his disorderly and disgruntled retreat. After that, they ordered another round of drinks and shared in a silent exchange of sly murderous smiles. When the drinks finally arrived — grins and gratuity promptly dealt with — they toasted to a joust well met then huddled closer together and let din, the distressed mahogany, and the cracked leather illusion of normalcy swallow them whole.”