Meet Me in the In-Betweenby Bella Pollen
A provocative and lively memoir in stories by the inimitable and bestselling author of The Summer of the Bear.
Growing up the middle child of transatlantic parents—her down-to-earth mother and romantic father—Bella Pollen never quite figured out how to belong. Restlessly crossing back and forth between the boundaries of family and freedom, England and America, home and away, she has sought but generally failed to contain an adventurous spirit within the narrow lines of convention. When she awakes one morning stymied by an existential panic, Pollen grudgingly concludes that in order to move forward, she needs to take a good look at her past. In Meet Me in the In-Between, Pollen takes us on the illuminating journey of a life, from her privileged, unorthodox childhood in Upper Manhattan through early marriage to a son of an alluring Mafioso, to the dusty border towns of Mexico where she falls in with a crowd of Pink Floyd–loving smugglers. Throughout all, Bella grapples intently with relationships, motherhood, career ups and downs, and a pathological fear of being boxed in.
Interwoven with exquisite passages of graphic memoir, this is a tender, funny, and poignantly honest story of one woman’s quest to keep looking for the extraordinary in an ordinary life. Reminiscent of Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and Pam Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness, novelist Bella Pollen, with a patented mix of humor and pain, takes a dead-on look at what it means to be a smart, sane woman in a state of perpetual confusion.
“Pollen captivatingly mixes graphics with prose to tell of her upbringing, swinging back and forth between binaries (transatlantic homes, riches-to-rags love affairs). Think Eat, Pray, Love-finding yourself, laughing, and taking what you need even when it’s not what you wanted-only cooler.” —Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
“Pointedly astute . . . Meet Me in the In-Between displays the disjointedness of a life, how whims and flings don’t make existence—or a woman—any less meaningful. It’s in the spaces among all these things that something magical breathes and resists capture. As Pollen illustrates in her sharp, nearly wry voice, it is not our memories that will lead us to an understanding of the self, but the act of maneuvering among them, as though they are a crowd blocking the self from view.” —Zyzzyva
“How to know who you truly are and what you can become? With nothing firmly underfoot, Pollen pursues a quest for authenticity through unconventional and unpredictable encounters and thrives. Hers is a memoir of an indelible life full of incredible adventures.” —Booklist
“Brava . . . Pollen’s account of bohemian family life and outrageous mafia-in-laws is funny, poignant and acute.” —The Spectator
“Funny, startling and unexpectedly poignant.” —The New Statesman
“Pollen has a way with caustic description that evinces a love for the evocative qualities of language . . . From the beginning (she) revels in a self-absorption that should be off-putting, but her clever way with words is so self–deprecating that she is immediately likeable.”—Santa Fe New Mexican
“Idiosyncratic . . . poignant, beautifully written.” —Mail on Sunday (UK)
“Frequently disturbing, often very funny. Pollen has a gift for playing with her readers, teasing them, shocking them, having fun with their assumptions before shaking them out of their complacency to reveal underlying and often very moving profundities. The intimacy of Pollen’s prose invites inclusion into the most private conversations she has with herself, her self-mocking humour rippling through . . . unforgettable.” —Daily Telegraph (UK)
This much I knew about my prospective father-in-law. Gilberto Algranti was shaved near to bald and drove a duck-egg-blue Rolls-Royce. As a boy, having already lost his parents to the camps, he’d been dragged out of hiding and put on a train with fifty other children bound for Dachau. In a pre-arranged sting, an Italian guard unhooked their carriage and re-attached it to the rear of another train heading back into Rome, where the children were rescued and sheltered by volunteers all over the city. For the duration of the war, Gilberto was hidden deep in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, the very hotel in which we were now anxiously waiting to meet him.
The minute he swept through the lobby in his cashmere coat, I felt it–a magnetic charge so strong I could have sworn the chandelier crystals tinkled uneasily. Had I imagined it? No! Everything about Gilberto radiated power. As he approached, the now-ancient bellboy and bartender, formerly his protectors, began weeping openly. Gilberto embraced them, before finally turning to me.
“Eccola,” he rasped, sounding like an emphysemic prescribed a thousand cigarettes as a cure for laryngitis. He kissed me twice. “Ma che bella figura.”
I shifted from foot to foot like a pelican.
“No.” Gilberto pinched my cheek, a mark of affection that was to become a painful and oft-repeated habit. “The compliment is something every woman must learn to accept.”