Reese's Book Club | June '19: The Cactus
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood is the Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine pick for June 2019! This book is quirky in the best way, funny in the most unintentional way, and heartwarming in the most unexpected way.
Susan Green, as the title and cover of the book suggests, is like a cactus. She needs very little and has the approachability of someone covered in spines. What makes her intriguing is that she is completely unaware of this, as her intentions are rooted in pragmatism and reasoned logic, and her meticulously structured life leaves her blissfully ignorant of how she is perceived.
That is, until, unexpected and major changes to Susan’s life cause her to reevaluate her circumstances and open herself up in ways that change her life forever.
For more information about the Author, Reese’s Book Club, or my SPOILER FILLED thoughts on the book - scroll down!
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*** spoiler alert ***
Is it weird that I found myself relating to Susan Green A LOT?! Maybe it isn’t that weird if you know me personally - I’ve often been called “cold-hearted”, “a robot”, “obnoxious”, and many other names under the sun that reference my cacti-like personality. I felt a connection to Susan’s character because, like her, my intentions are never rooted in malice, but rather - rooted in reasoned logic and an attempt to share the knowledge that I’ve meticulously analyzed and have deduced to be the correct answer or course of action. Did that sentence make you roll your eyes? I’m sure it did.
Throughout the book, I kept finding instances where Susan and I have similarities. We both value our independence and guard it fiercely, we are both resourceful because we learned how to be so out of necessity, we both find confidence in our analysis which makes us obnoxious pedants, we both take things literally (oh boy, is this a problem for me), and we both dislike the chaos and drama of unprepared life. As I kept learning more and more about Susan, I felt uneasy as I saw how her actions, which were so similar to my own, affected her life and the relationships with those around her. Although I would not say that my own cacti-like traits are as intense as Susan’s, they are still traits that I feel deeply insecure about. I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, how my behavior can push away or upset someone that I love, and my heart lurched for Susan because I saw her doing the same thing.
Yet, with all of Susan’s “issues”, you can’t help but find her endearing - and as you begin to learn more about her, you start to realize the circumstances that have led her to be so guarded and meticulous. This is where Susan and I differ - her childhood was difficult, and as far as I can remember, mine was privileged and easy. My heart continued to ache for her as I learned about her having an alcoholic father, about not being loved as much as her brother, and about the neglect she experienced which led to the careful editing of her life to pretend that everything was ok.
She excelled at pretending like everything was okay. This was her tool for survival. Once she honed the skill of pretending, she then worked diligently to ensure that her life was actually okay, structured in a way that prevented her from having to rely on anyone for anything at all or disrupting her hard work in any way. As far as she was concerned, all of her efforts had led to her living a perfectly pleasant life…
…AND THEN….the giant bomb of 'My-Aunt-is-My-Bio-Mother’ drops! Here she is - unintentionally pregnant in her 40’s, fighting with her VERY DIFFICULT brother, newly orphaned after her Mother’s death (all of which in themselves are disrupting the life she had carefully created for herself) - and you find out her damn Aunt is her actual BIOLOGICAL MOTHER. What the hell. WHAT THE HELL?! Susan had been diligently fighting to prove that her Mother loved her equally as much as her brother, pursuing legal action to have that proof validated by the court of law, justifying that her own Mother would SURELY have never left her good-for-nothing brother with a share greater than hers - and she finds out that she is NOT her Mother’s biological child and that she actually DID love her less. AND - so many ANDS, that her Father actually is her biological Father which meant that he had AN AFFAIR (albeit very short one) with his wife’s sister! To have gone over 40 years of her life knowing one thing - only to learn that you’ve been lied to your entire life and that your Mother told her Priest but didn’t even have the gall to tell YOU?!
Can you tell I have a lot of “feels” about this?! I had originally rated this book as “Really Good”, but after typing all of this up, I decided to change the rating to “OMG So Damn Good” because I am riled up about a damn FICTION novel! These people aren’t real and I’m huffing and puffing in rage over my laptop.
I digress. After all of this drama, after all of these revelations - Susan is forced to open up in ways she never intended or expected. It makes you realize that even through intense hardships, beautiful things can still bloom. Had it not been for her Mother dying or her accidental pregnancy, she would have never formed the close relationship with her neighbor Kate and would have never let herself open up and then fall in love with Rob. These two relationships changed the course of Susan’s life in the best of ways, making her learn lessons she could have never learned otherwise. This book rounded out so beautifully and I cheered for Susan when she finally let go and experienced love in a way that she needed and deserved. I loved this book, SO MUCH, and I’m so glad it was a Reese Book Club pick!