In A Serious of Unfortunate Events, author Jessica Wright describes a life of parental neglect and personal upheaval in and around Seattle, Washington. The confusing wordplay in the title (is it intentional or a spelling mistake?) offers a preview of a story that is sad, but often extremely hard to understand.
In paragraphs that can run to multiple pages, Wright describes growing up with a distant mother, absent father, and grandmother who she dearly loved despite her addiction to crack cocaine. (A disclaimer on the publisher’s page says this is a work of fiction, but Wright claims it is “My Story Told as I Lived It!”) The impoverished family is frequently changing residences or homeless. And Wright soon repeats the same cycle herself as a pregnant teen. After multiple children and countless moves, jobs, and falls from grace, she appears to have found stability and faith by story’s end.
What Wright went through is harrowing, but her writing makes the story hard to decipher. There are inconsistencies; for example, she claims to have used marijuana once in her life, after previously describing trying it for the first time and using it semi-regularly afterwards. Many words are spelled phonetically, such as “quote on quote” for “quote-unquote.” And meandering passages lose the reader entirely: “They were so busy looking at the flaws of one another and forgot that I was just a configuring figure of who they confided me to be and I always been peace maker then on I knew I was left without understanding.”
Anyone who suffers abuse or neglect has the right to tell their story and clear the air. But while it’s clear that A Serious of Unfortunate Events was cathartic for the author, without substantial revision it has little to offer readers.
Also available as an ebook.