Book Review: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel

Amazon.com: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds ...

Title: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Author: Paul Zindel

Genre: Plays

Number of Pages: 112

Rating: A-

Recommended?: Yes


 

 

For years, I never tried reading a play because I figured they just weren’t for me. One night I wanted something I could read in about an hour and I picked this book up, and ever since I’ve been a play convert. I read The Pigman years ago and remember that it was sad, and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon MarigoldsĀ is no exception. It offers a fleeting portrait of a very dysfunctional family, made up of two teenage daughters and a loathsome, narcissistic mother.

 

The older daughter Ruth has violent epileptic fits and likes to stir up trouble when she’s bored, and the younger daughter Tillie is a shy science nerd who’s considered to have great academic potential. Her mother resents the hell out of that potential, being one of those people who thinks she could have easily been rich and famous if other people hadn’t ruined it for her. There’s also a senile older woman living with them, who is allowed to board with them in exchange for a paycheck. Tillie’s mom treats the old woman like an animal and one can only hope she is too far gone to understand the constant dehumanizing bullshit she’s going through.

 

The edition of this book of this book I read included a forward by Paul Zindel where he seemed to imply that the mom character was based on his own mother. He acted like she was a good (if eccentric) person but that certainly can’t be said of the character. I almost felt sorry for her but then I remember how much I wanted to push her in front of an oncoming train. She made me laugh occasionally though, especially with her cringe-worthy homophobic insinuations about Tillie’s teacher. S

 

he was so abusive and so hateful and no amount of emotional pain could have justified the damage she caused. The thing is, she was frighteningly believable. There wasn’t a single moment where she said or did something I didn’t believe a real person would say or do. It’s a really short play but there’s not a single moment wasted, every moment I spent getting a glimpse into these people’s desperate inner lives got under my skin. I felt like I was in the room with the characters and every plot development made me squirm, like there was a ticking time bomb in the room and everyone knew it was there but had agreed not to talk about it. The only thing I didn’t like about this play was how abruptly it ended, it didn’t really provide the reader with any answers about what happened next.

 

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