Book Review: “Wild Berry Blue” by Rivka Galchen
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
“Wild Berry Blue” by Rivka Galchen is a coming of age story. In the story, characterization is employed to describe a young- girls crush on what appears to be an unknown restaurant worker or blind character. The young girl is the “round” character who narrates the story without direct physical description. There are 4 main characters in the story: the 8 year old’s distant mother, her father who is an ally and lastly, Roy, who is the object of her attention, a blond tattooed McDonald’s worker and former heroin addict. The story is set in Oklahoma within the child’s home and on Saturday’s ritual excursions with her father, where the young voyeur sees Roy, at McDonald’s, while her mother cleans the house. (Galchen 140) The 8 year old looks through a Jewish or religious lens coding people she encounters. (Galchen 136) Some of the 8-year-old narrator’s characters move into the background, like for example her mother, is a 2-dimensional character with little indirect characterization and no physical description. She had a direct character exchange with Roy, who is described via narration and dialogue. Roy, her crush, is described with distinct negative traits. It was suggested that her admiration for Roy, who appears to be a tattooed and heroin-addicted character may have led her astray in later life. In the end, she describes herself as a shoplifter and Roy as a kind of leper. (Galchen 144) It alluded that a wooden doll, for which Roy expresses interest, that was purchased at the Medieval Festival, was something “Roy-like,” having a cracked hand and consequently conjuring of leprosy. (Galchen 145) Perhaps it was marriage, or her religious lens, or a lack of income, or Roy’s deviance, that created for her, the idea that Roy was to blame for her later crimes. Characterization was well done in Wild Berry Blue as some characters were dimmed, some had naïve descriptions that were also two dimensional with some direct characterization. Her voyeurism may have commenced with a comment by Roy while he was a cashier at McDonald’s and said, “Hi little sexy.” (137) What was most distinct, was the use of characterization and a child’s young sex appeal or admiration for casual acquaintances that become as if “first loves.” Characterization in this story employed some characters as idols, pushed some into the background and another as naïve, however, an influential acquaintance and all were supported by the setting, tone and plot.
Galchen, Rivka. “Wild Berry Blue.” Literature and Human Experience, edited by Richard Abcarian et al., Bedford/St. Martins, 2008, pp. 135-145