I received The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman as a gift from a friend I admire very much (#helenfan). It is mostly about a woman named Salome and her movie star husband, Octavio. They lead a very romantic story-book life until she is kidnapped and abused during Chile’s political turmoil in the 60’s. Richman weaves in a second love story about Salome’s therapist, Dr. Samuel Rudin, and his wife, Kaija. Samuel blames himself for his mother’s depression during Nazi Germany and Kaija is a Finnish war orphan who was adopted in Sweden. All 4 characters deal with heavy trauma from memories and the novel is about overcoming one’s own past and moving forward.
Richman incorporates history from a span of European countries, which can be a confusing idea, but she is able to pull it off without it reading like a textbook. The tone is more old-fashioned, but I enjoyed the ups and downs of emotional disasters all the characters go through.
Interesting concepts from this book: Courtship, Transference, and Childhood Trauma.
Salome and Octavio are passionately in love- a love that sounds ridiculous in today’s world. The guy wins her heart through love poems stuffed in oranges from orange trees- who does that? His journey of courtship for Salome oozed such a high level of romanticism that I almost scoffed at it.
It is funny how the concept of romance has changed. Now it’s about cute text messages or snaps, and admiring someone’s Facebook photo behind the computer screen. Nobody will throw rocks up at your window anymore. I’m not even sure if people use doorbells anymore.
Transference is when a patient develops (what they believe to be) romantic feelings towards his or her therapist. This occurs as a result of them opening up their secrets and fears, consequently spotlighting the therapist as “the one person who truly understands me”. Patients get overwhelmed and mistake this relationship to be something more.
This is an interesting phenomenon because it also pops up in the latest novel I’ve read, The Girl on the Train (review coming soon!). Salome and Samuel’s affair is a bit of a turn-off because it makes me respect Samuel less as a character, not to mention Kaija is such a lovely wife. However, it lessens the sickening sweetness of Salome and Octavio’s newlywed phase. At the very least, it made Salome’s flaws more real.
It’s weird sometimes that you feel more comfortable opening up to a complete stranger than the people closest to you. A therapist is supposed to put your best interest in mind and are supposed to be professional, so it’s almost as if they are not allowed to judge you. It’s amazing how desperate we are to hear comforting words.
It is so interesting how things that happen to you as a child impact you later on in life. Samuel is a therapist and he also sees himself as a patient. He diagnoses himself based on his traumatic past with his mother and it is because of that he is able to help others. He determines that he has an urge to help others because he was unable to help his mother during her depression. He also determines that he fell in love with Kaija because she resembles his mother in the way she is broken inside and he wanted to fix her.
Salome’s eldest son is old enough to understand that his mother survived a traumatic experience. This makes him quieter, more protective, and more mature. He tells himself that he will not complain or ask for anything as long as his mother returns. Salome does return, so he essentially gives up his childhood innocence. Salome doesn’t seem to fully understand how deep her experience cuts into her son’s mentality because she explains to Samuel that her son is simply more mature for his age. She seems to gloss over the fact that her son is also traumatized by her abduction and he could have been a completely different person if the event never took place.
It makes me think of how strong the emotion of regret is. A person can devote his or her entire life to make up for a regret from the past. The things that we had no control over as a child come back to us in another form when we are adults. When that time arrives, we find ourselves passionately trying to make it right because now we are older, wiser, and more powerful. We think to ourselves that now we can do it, we can change something, we can make it better. In Samuel’s case, it worked out, but it doesn’t work out for everybody. The despair that follows after the realization that we still cannot do anything as adults must be crippling.