Not to be Overlooked
By Natalia Alvarez and Rachel Gray
Not to be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers reviews of Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong and The Outrage by William Hussey.
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
Since Ocean Vuong’s debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous came out in 2019, he has received much acclaim. Around the time of its release, the pandemic was just starting and many people began looking for ways to pass the days, which usually meant picking up a new hobby such as cooking, exercise or reading. Social media platforms like TikTok became a great space for people to create communities and share their favourite reads, one of them being On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. This novel has since become beloved by many and Vuong has been praised for his heartbreaking skill with words. It is no surprise that his latest release, Time is a Mother, promises to leave readers just as devastated and self-reflective.
Unlike his novel, Time is a Mother is a poetry collection published by Penguin Press in April 2022, and it includes twenty-seven poems split into four sections. These poems centre around feelings of grief and loss following the death of Vuong’s mother as a result of cancer, as well as other personal traumas he has dealt with in his life. He details moments of joy and beauty only to find these memories tinged with the sad reality of his situation. Vuong always promises to write from the heart, at times describing moments of immense suffering, while still leaving room to poke fun at certain aspects of our society. He constantly keeps readers guessing with shifts in structure and mood as he experiments with each turn of the page.
Vuong’s poems in this collection serve to remind us that to love is to feel grief. Everything must come to an end and so every moment is precious. This is the beauty of Vuong’s writing. It is painful, and yet that pain is a necessary reminder that every day we are lucky to be alive. For some, this may be a hard pill to swallow, but this collection is so artfully constructed, it would be a shame for it not to receive the attention it deserves. I hope readers will take the time to invest in Time is a Mother and I look forward to seeing other people’s thoughts on it.
This is Vuong’s second full-length poetry collection following the 2016 critically acclaimed Night Sky with Exit Wounds. His growth from his first collection to his second is evident and signifies that we can expect many more great works from him in the future.
The Outrage by William Hussey
Having read William Hussey’s previous book Hideous Beauty last year, I fell head-over-heels in love with his writing. Mind you, I sobbed my way through the novel, but I still adored every single page! So, I was very confident that I would enjoy his new book, too.
The Outrage is about Gabe, a gay teen living in dystopian Britain where being gay has been outlawed following an event called the Outrage, and anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community is taken away to camps. We follow Gabe as he tries to survive school and day-to-day life, while still being true to himself and keeping his sexuality hidden.
Gabe is a brilliant protagonist. I remember falling in love with the characters in Hideous Beauty, and it was no different with The Outrage. I adore how brave and angry Gabe is about everything – determined to love who he wants without anything holding him back, rather than accept the way his society is. His love for his friends is so sweet and heartwarming, as are the characters themselves.
The setting of this novel, a futuristic Britain that oppresses the queer community to such an extent, isn’t all that impossible to imagine, and it certainly holds true for many places in the world right now. A country ruled by hatred, bigotry and a fear of otherness is absolutely terrifying to me. Despite the bleak setting, however, this novel is one of hope – hope that future generations will fight back, and that in the end love will prevail.
Overall, I loved this novel. The Outrage is not an easy read, but it is an important book about love and acceptance, so I highly recommend it to everyone!