(In which I try to fight my sleepiness and attempt to write a sort-of book review)
I finished reading Rebecca Miller’s 2008 novel The Private Lives of Pippa Lee last weekend. The title is already very telling of what the book is all about. In order for Pippa to fully enter in the new chapter of her life wherein she moves into a retirement home with her husband, she must first completely come to terms with her past and revisit all the lives she has lived. The novel is an intimate and powerful portrait of the “many lives behind a single name.”
You can say whatever you want about Pippa Lee but for all her flaws and shortcomings, the one undeniable thing about her is her incredible strength in the face of all she’s been through. I think Pippa is the epitome of aging gracefully, and not just in the literal sense of the phrase. The wild adventures, endless escapades and even her self-destructive ways that characterized her youth all managed to make a 360-degree turn little by little as she entered into adulthood. I like that her character is proof that change doesn’t really happen overnight; it is a constant decision to always stick with your choice to be better.
The world of fiction is populated with strong women characters and my favorite thing about them is their ability – sometimes innate, sometimes acquired – to redeem themselves. As much as they may sometimes be the one to cause their downfall, they are also the ones who pick themselves up and strive with all their might to move ahead.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, considered to be the father of magic realism, once said that everybody had three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life. I couldn’t agree more. As the novel showed me, Pippa’s public life may seem perfect but it’s unfair, and not to mention naive, for me to expect it to always stay that way. On the other hand, the private lives of Pippa Lee may seem to be repulsive, but there is always a certain beauty and quiet strength in wreckage. And as for her secret life? I think the best we can do is imagine, lest we defeat the very purpose of its name. This complexity of multiple lives is perhaps what makes our reality truly magical.