No One Else Can Have You
By Kathleen Hale
Sometimes a book receives notoriety and it’s tempting to read it to find out why. And sometimes that turns out to be a mistake.
No One Else Can Have You is billed as a darkly comic tale of a
16-year-old coming to terms with the death of her best, and only, friend
in a dull and creepy town. Her mother died several years ago so she’s
had experience with it.
Earlier this year, Hale’s novel gained attention when she tracked down a
person egging on negative reviews of her novel and wrote about it in
the Guardian. Then that received a backlash. So I had to find out what
had caused all the fuss and fortunately had an ARC of the novel.
Fortunately, because I didn’t have to pay for it. Hale’s protagonist has
a sardonic voice and the author has a dark view of small-town
Wisconsin, where everyone is a hypocrite, drunk and a hunter. The
protagonist, Kippy, had one friend, Ruth. But Ruth was killed and her
body left in a corn maze after horrible things were done to it. Was the
deed done by her vandalizing, womanizing boyfriend? Was the killer the
middle-aged attorney in town who also was shagging Ruth? Or was it
Ruth’s brother comes home from serving in Afghanistan; he shot his
finger off when Ruth was killed in an attempt to be sent home and now
has a dishonorable discharge as the least of his problems.
Kippy’s father is a school counselor, calls her ridiculous names and
keeps her close by. Their friend across the street lives by himself ever
since his parents died in a truck accident when it collided with a
deer. He mostly plays video games and collects stuff, but he was Kippy's
babysitter and seems to be about the calmest, rational character in the
When Ruth’s boyfriend is arrested, despite every indication that he
didn’t do it (especially when there is a subsequent murder), Kippy
decides to find out who really killed Ruth. The sheriff doesn’t care who
really did it because Ruth’s boyfriend also tried to have his way with
his daughter and he hasn’t forgiven the kid.
All the relationships in the book are tainted in similar ways. The
language used throughout is very fond of certain Anglo-Saxon terms.
Everyone lives on beer and meat; the one time Kippy asks her father for a
salad is sad and typical of the way Hale's story condemns everything
Kippy sees. After Kippy’s father catches her trying to solve the murder,
he has her committed to a mental hospital. Pre-publication publicity
compared the novel to Fargo, and that was not accurate.
This novel disappointed on so many levels -- characterization, plotting,
who the killer was. But overall, the biggest disappointment is that
Hale's novel would have been so much more with some finesse. The
sardonic tone is wonderful but the world is describes is so OTT that it
doesn't matter. Not much of anything matters in Kippy's world. If you
care, you get sent to the looney bin.
Ironically enough, that original review's complaint about the book
apologizing for rape that set Hale off to stalking the reviewer? Didn't
see that part in the actual ARC, unless the reviewer meant the subplot
where the middle-age attorney shags the teenage murder victim in a
consensual relationship. For fiction that's far worse in that regard,
there's always a certain novel by Greg Iles.
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