“Give Me Your Hand”

Give Me Your Hand

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Megan Abbott’s 2018 novel. I read a first edition Little, Brown and Company hardcover from the library.

Buy the Book.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

The Plot:

Teenage friends Kit Owens and Diane Fleming are torn apart after Diane admits a terrible secret. Years later, they meet again while competing for spots on a prestigious grant.

I’m confused and disturbed that nowhere in the book’s description or author’s Acknowledgments is there any indication that Diane’s high school acts are based in reality. Not “inspired by”, not “influenced by”, but literally, word-for-word, event-by-event taken from the Marie Robard case. Diane and Kit are even studying the same damned Shakespeare play in school.

From reviews and recommendations, I was hoping for another Social Creature; instead I got The Da Vinci Code (it’s popular for a reason, but not my favorite style). Ridiculous and absurd plots can be entertaining, but you must accept the world you’re in and go along for the ride, like watching Face/Off or Armageddon. Otherwise, you’re just going to be miserable the whole time. While I found the teenage years of the girls interesting, I was not on the ride for what happens when they meet as adults.


I.

[1] Vocabulary:

When you get away with something it’s yours only, forever. Heavy and irremediable.

(p.11)

 

adjective – impossible to cure or put right.

[2] Reference:

Now science has proven PMDD is not only real, it’s part of the genetic makeup. The women can’t help it, are slaves to it.

(p.15)

 

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe and disabling form of premenstrual syndrome affecting 3-8% of menstruating women. The disorder consists of a “cluster of affective, behavioral and somatic symptoms” that recur monthly during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. PMDD was added to the list of depressive disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. The exact pathogenesis of the disorder is still unclear and is an active research topic. Treatment of PMDD relies largely on antidepressants. On average, the symptoms last six days but can start up to two weeks before menses.

[3]

She moves with the brisk efficiency of a general and no one has ever seen her eat, drink a cup of coffee, or hold an umbrella.

(p.23)

[4] Reference:

Diane and I both waved until our arms ached, like this was the last time Miss Suncoast Peaches might visit our town.

(p.29)

I have no idea what Miss Suncoast Peaches is. I think this might just be a joke (?).

[5] Reference:

His eyes unfocus mysteriously, like they do when he talks about huffing propofol at his old job.

(p.39)

 

Propofol, marketed as Diprivan among other names, is a short-acting medication that results in a decreased level of consciousness and lack of memory for events. Its uses include the starting and maintenance of general anesthesia, sedation for mechanically ventilated adults, and procedural sedation. It is given by injection into a vein.

[6] Reference:

“I’m not,” I say, handing him a Pulparindo.

(p.40)

 

Pulparindo is the trade name of a Mexican candy produced by de la Rosa. The candy is made from the pulp of the tamarind fruit, and is flavored with sugar, salt, and chili peppers, making it simultaneously tart, sweet, salty, and spicy.

[7] Reference:

Even Serge is gone from the vivarium that is nearly his home.

(p.42)

 

An enclosure, container, or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under seminatural conditions for observation or study or as pets; an aquarium or terrarium.

[8] Reference:

Rippled by brume and the bus exhaust.

(p.44)

 

noun – (literary) – mist or fog.

[9] Reference:

I never liked Benjy, who had a hundred jokes about stopcocks.

(p.48)

 

A stopcock is a form of valve used to control the flow of a liquid or gas. The term is not precise and is applied to many different types of valve. The only consistent attribute is that the valve is designed to completely stop the flow when closed fully.

[10] Reference:

Ms. Steen was giving titration instructions.

(p.48)

(…so many terms I learned and forgot from high school…)

Titration, also known as titrimetry, is a common laboratory method of quantitative chemical analysis that is used to determine the concentration of an identified analyte (substance or chemical constituent).

[11] Reference:

He’d gotten married again to a woman he’d met at the OTB.

(p.50)

 

Off-track betting (or OTB; in British English, off-course betting) refers to sanctioned gambling on horse racing outside of a race track.

[12]

I wondered what it was like to care so much about ideas from books and to think about things like why we dream and if female brains are different from males ones. But maybe I cared too, because sometimes I found myself wondering about those things. I just didn’t show it. It was high school, you didn’t show things.

(p.51)

[13] Reference:

“Real-time PCR detection systems.”

(p.61)

 

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method widely used in molecular biology to make many copies of a specific DNA segment.

[14] Reference:

Once I found a crushed box of horchata wedged between his bench and the floor.

(p.64)

 

Horchata, or orxata, is a name given to various plant milk beverages of similar taste and appearance.

[15] Reference:

His story, about the time he fell in love with a girl in his orgo class his freshman year of college.

(p.64)

Slang for organic chemistry.

[16] References:

“Just Mickey’s Big Mouth and Ripple for you?”

(p.69)

 

Mickey’s is a malt liquor made by the Miller Brewing Company. Mickey’s is known for its beehive-shaped, wide-mouthed 12-ounce bottle, often called a grenade due to its circular waffle design.

Ripple was a fortified wine produced by E & J Gallo Winery that was popular in the United States, particularly in the 1970s. It was originally marketed to “casual” drinkers. Due to its low price, it had a reputation as a drink for alcoholics and the destitute.

[17] The way Kit describes the world sounds a lot like my high school notebooks; a bit embarrassing but readable:

That night, she came to my house to study, appearing in our driveway behind the wheel of a big truck like the kind wealthy ranchers drove on TV. Seeing her descend from its high haunches in her cream sweater and long braided ponytail was always memorable, like seeing a pale angel alighting from the clouds.

(p.78)

[18]

“My grandfather put this framed picture of him in my room,” she said. “And every night, I stick it in the bedside drawer. Every morning, I take it out again so he won’t know.”

(p.82)

[19] Reference:

Ms. Steen told us a famous chemist named August Kekule once fell asleep while working on a problem and he dreamed of atoms dancing into the shape of a snake.

(p.85)

 

August Kekule (1829-1896) was a German organic chemist. From the 1850s until his death, Kekule was one of the most prominent chemists in Europe, especially in theoretical chemistry. He was the principal founder of the theory of chemical structure. Kekule said he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail.

[20]

At the end of the west hallway, I see her long before I’m ready, coffee churning high in my throat. The wine-colored coat. I’m not prepared, not even close.

(p.92)

[21]

He is the same, I realize, but I’ve ruined him for myself.

(p.107)

[22] Reference/Fact check:

Usually mice don’t like men. They spike their stress hormones, or so some believe.

(p.109)

From The New Yorker’s May 2, 2014 article “Why Do Mice Fear Men?” (by Betsy Morais):

Mice, and rats, it turned out, are made especially stressed out by men. (…) Over a series of experiments, the team determined that even if a female scientist is working with a mouse, “just having a man in the room was similar to three minutes of forced swim.” (…)

The team determined that the rodents were responding to the scent of men, not the sight.

[23] Fact Check:

“[Venus’] atmosphere is so thick, we have never seen the surface. (…) At some point, it repaved its own surface. The lava is now on the outside, as if the planet turned itself inside out.”

(p.110)

From Amy Shira Teitel’s Popular Science January 6, 2015 article “Yes, We’ve Seen the Surface of Venus”:

Venera was a series of satellites launched by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s to study Venus’ environment. It was also the program aimed at returning the first images of the surface of another planet. Over the course of the program, thirteen probes successfully reached Venus and transmitted data about out [sic] planetary neighbour, eight landed successfully on the surface, and four returned pretty outstanding images.

[24] Reference:

Scott had to chase down my dad at a day track in Hialeah to let him know.

(p.116)

 

Hialeah is a city in Miami-Date County, Florida. With a population of around 225,000 (at the 2010 census), Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in Florida.

[25]

Diane sets her mug on the table. The way she holds herself, so carefully. Like someone who always sees herself at the same time as she sees everything else. Who always thinks, Careful, careful.

(p.126)


II.

[26] References:

The AM radio broadcasting from another era (Dottie West and Juice Newton and I want a lover with a slow hand.

(p.186)

 

Dottie West (1932-1991) was an American country music singer and songwriter. Dottie West’s career started in the 1960s, with her Top 10 hit, “Here Comes My Baby Back Again”, which won her a Grammy Award in 1965.

Juice Newton (b.1952) is an American pop and country singer, songwriter, and musician. To date, Newton has received five Grammy Award nominations (winning once in 1983).

[27]

The sense that the dream is about to come to an end and no matter what happens, at least the dread will be past.

(p.203)

[28] Great Velvet Underground “Venus in Furs” reference:

“Classic Severin, though. Shiny-shiny, shiny boots of leather.”

(p.204)

I had the song in my head through most of the book. No complaints.

[29] Reference:

The perversity of women is so great as to be incredible even to its victims.

I remember that quote from college. The great philosopher Caro.

(p.218)

I cannot definitively figure out who Caro is. The book Kit is reading is from the 19th century, so it is not Mario De Caro, a philosopher born in 1963. It could be Elme Marie Caro (1826-1887), a French philosopher, though I cannot find him directly connected to this quote.

The quote itself is quoted often, always attributed simply to “Caro.”

See: StrangeAgo.com’s September 27, 2017 article “Louise Vemrmilya and Other Notorious Female Murderers” ; Criminological Perspectives: Essential Readings ; and The Female Offender by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero (p.148).

[30]

And no sound from outside or anywhere. That must be the thing when you have money, I think. You never have to hear anything you don’t want to, ever.

(p.219)

[31] Reference:

“Is he still hot on the ASR?”

“We used it in his cocaine study.”

(p.219)

 

Ancestral sequence reconstruction (ASR) – also known as ancestral gene/sequence reconstruction/resurrection – is a technique used in the study of molecular evolution.

(ASR can also stand for acute stress disorder, which might make more sense in a cocaine study?)

[32] Reference:

“I just did scut work for the grad students.”

(p.221)

From Merriam-Webster.com:

Routine and often menial labor.

 

English.StackExchange.com goes into a little more detail:

Probably from medical argot, scut, meaning ‘junior intern’

[33]

All the visitors feel like they’re being watched. Because they are.

(p.238)

[34] Reference:

Talking hard-boiled, like a pair of skells, rather than two post-docs whose only crime is likely Zell’s regularly absconding with Erlenmeyer flasks for his home brew.

(p.240)

 

skell

noun – (informal; US) – (in New York) a tramp or homeless person.

That is… oddly specific.

[35] Fact check?

The undergraduate who died a few years back, her long locks catching in the lab’s metal lathe, spinning her around tighter and tighter, her neck pressed against the machine until she could no longer breathe.

(p.283)

Oh, no. This happened to Yale student Michele Dufault, who died alone and was discovered by other students on April 13, 2011. (see Yale Alumni Magazine.)


III.

[36] Reference:

Jean Nate and Mr. Bubbles after days full of cancer-rattled collies.

(p.295-96)

From the amazon.com product description for Jean Nate After Bath Splash:

Launched in the year 1935, by the design house of Revlon. Jean Nate is a women’s fragrance that possesses a blend of a classic scent of spice and florals, fresh and invigorating. It is recommended for evening wear.

[37]

Everything seems so strange that nothing does.

(p.298)

[38] Reference:

When I was little, I saw a scary movie about a woman who remained in a permanent stupor from a long-ago tropical flu. At night, she walked the corridors of her grand house, face blank, body moving as if on strings.

(p.306)

Anyone know what movie this is? I can’t find it with keywords.

[39] Reference:

The big Lanister sky (…), Barbicide blue.

(p.331)

 

Barbicide is a disinfectant solution used by barbers and cosmetologists for sanitizing grooming tools such as combs and hair-cutting shears. Manufactured by King Research, it was invented in 1947 by Maurice King and marketed heavily around the United States by his brother James.

[40] Reference:

Drunk and tickle-nosed on Cold Duck.

(p.331)

 

Cold Duck is the name of a sparkling wine made in the United States.


Things I wanted to see play out (the police investigation, Alex’s fiancé) were built up, then abandoned for an over-the-top parlor scene/poisoning/last second rescue. Give Me Your Hand isn’t my type of story. This is a puzzle book, not a character book, not a language book, not a feeling or atmosphere book.

The characters were difficult to understand (if Diane is a sociopath, how and why does she care about Kit? Why would Serge cover up Alex’s death if he believed Diane, who he hated, was responsible? What the hell was Dr. Severin’s long gameplan in asking Serge to cover it all up?), the twists veered between predictable and ridiculous, Kit had on-the-nose dreams far too often, and the book is about 100 pages longer than it needs to be. But I passed a couple of afternoons with it and was entertained.

I’m recommending Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature over Give Me Your Hand, because what SC does so right is allow the narrator to be an absolute guilty shit and still make us dread her getting caught. Kit Owens, in Give Me Your Hand is conveniently absolved of wrongdoing at every turn; nothing is really her fault and things magically work out of her in the end. And you know what? I like and feel for Louise in SC so much more than I ever do for Kit.

Next week, Coffee House Press delivers again with Martin Riker’s debut Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return.

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