The Worst Thing I’ve Done by Ursula Hegi
Touchstone, 2007 (ARE)
Fiction; 260 pgs
First Sentence: Tonight, Annie is driving from North Sea to Montauk and back to North Sea as she has every night since Mason killed himself.
Reason for Reading: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book quite unexpectedly. Ursula Hegi wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, and I have enjoyed two others by her as well. I was quite thrilled get the opportunity to read her latest.
Comments: Sometimes even the closest of friendships carry the darkest of secrets. Annie, Mason, and Jake have been friends since childhood, with Annie as the glue that holds the friends together. Mason’s suicide devastates the two remaining friends who struggle with their grief and guilt. Annie and Jake know what finally pushed their friend over the edge, and they both blame themselves for having a part in it.
Mason and Annie were married on the day Annie’s parents died in a car crash, leaving behind a newborn baby, Opal, making the newlyweds an instant family of three. The three friends pull together to get through their grief at the loss of Annie and Opal’s parents and to create a stable and good life for the young Opal.
With Mason’s death eight years later, Annie must go on for Opal’s sake. She works through her grief as she struggles to help her sister through hers. The friendship between the once three best friends is hanging by a thread just barely for the two that remain alive.
Ursula Hegi’s novel takes the reader into the hearts and minds of the three friends and their little charge, Opal. We are also introduced to Aunt Stormy, a close family friend of Annie’s mother who stands by Annie and Opal through the worst of it. The perfect friendship was not so perfect after all, and as the story unfolds, the characters are unmasked through their grief and suffering.
I never came to like Mason or even really sympathize with him as a character. He was selfish and manipulative. He acted out his insecurities his entire life, playing the victim or wounded one to gain sympathy and attention. I never did see exactly why it was that Annie and Jake were so protective of him or why they were drawn to him. They both loved him in their own ways and at the same time despised him.
Setting that aside, the grief and internal struggle of having lost someone to suicide described in the book is very real. The process of working through the grief and anger, coming to terms with the past and grabbing hold of the present, and moving forward is very much alive in Ursula Hegi’s latest novel.
The story itself is convoluted and not overly exciting. There are no surprises, even as the more secretive aspects of the story come to light. Yet Ursula Hegi’s beautiful writing brings to life the essence of the story and carries it from beginning to end. This is not the author's best effort, but I am still glad I took the time to read it.
Favorite Parts: Annie found solace in her art. She so easily got lost in a project, letting it take over and come alive on the canvas. I could tell that she was most at home when she was creating and living through her collages.
Taking out the kayak and floating along the water, seeing the wild life, the birds and jellyfish. Amidst all the turmoil, the moments on the water were the most peaceful and healing. I would not have minded joining along for the ride.