More Like Wrestling

More Like Wrestling

Book - 2003
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Random House, Inc.
Pinch and Paige are sisters, growing up on their own in the crumbling poverty and breathtaking beauty of Oakland, trying to build their lives on the fault line of a violent childhood. Betrayed by their mother, who is unwilling to leave an abusive relationship that is killing them all, the girls become everything to each other–so closely entwined they don’t know where one begins and the other ends–and begin to assemble a make-shift family from other down-and-out young people in their neighborhood. But gradually, the sisters find themselves entangled in the fast-money world of drugs, and as marriages, arrests, pregnancies, and murders shift the landscape of their group forever, Pinch and Paige must struggle to make sense of their past, and chart a route that will carry them forward. Told from the alternating points of view of each sister, More Like Wrestling is a novel about loyalty, as well as the dangers of apathy, and the ultimate necessity for forgiveness. Raising each other in the bungalow they call the Pseudo, Pinch and Paige know by the ages of 14 and 16 that there’s no going home again. Their mother checks on them once a day like a camp counselor, but they’re on their own to find a path, any path, that will lead them out of the despair and monotony that hover over Oakland. Paige is the dreamer, the wordsmith, the sister whose anger is so deep and wide that it threatens to drag her under completely. Pinch is the pragmatist, the follower, the silent one, who knows clearly that she needs to leave her hometown but cannot bring herself to make an escape without her sister. Between trying to unravel the pain and mystery of their childhood, and trying to keep their volatile group of friends from becoming unhinged, the sisters have no energy left for planning a future. And as tragedies begin to multiply, fueled by the crack epidemic wracking Oakland, Pinch and Paige find themselves dragged apart, and forced to see themselves as individuals with free will and choice to move on, or give up. Their haunting first-person narratives, interspersed with excerpts from Paige’s childhood diary, tell an unforgettable story about love, with all its potential for salvation and all its limitations.
1. The Oakland we see in the novel is a muddle of contradictions: poverty, devastation, cynicism, and a gory drug epidemic, mingled with deep blue lakes, gentle mountains, gorgeous skies, and the lights of San Francisco and Marin twinkling in the distance like a promise. Smith treats this landscape almost as a third central character in the story. What relationship does each sister have with this “character”? Does it change? How does it affect their decisions? 2. The two sisters have very different requirements for inner peace. Paige seems invested in the idea of justice, and often demands a clear delineation between good and bad. She is able to commit facts to memory “as long as they come in the form of a story in which the right people halfway triumph.” Pinch, on the other hand, seems more interested in letting go and smoothing over. She says “Not looking back–that’s still my definition of joy.” How do these differences affect each girl’s relationship with their mother? How do they affect each girl’s role in the gang of friends? Does one attitude seem preferable over the other? Why? 3. Nannah, Gram Liz, Mom, and Pinch and Paige are four generations of women who have experienced abuse, and adopted evasion as a survival skill. Each mother has kicked her own daughter out at a tender age to fend for herself. By the end of the novel, Pinch has convinced herself that this behavior is preferable to the nurturing and petting that Jessica was given by her mother. “Sink or swim…As fast as they can, they make sure we know how to survive, then force us to go for it…That’s love.” Do you think Pinch really believes this? Do you think Nannah, Gram Liz, or Mom regret their actions? 4. When Major melts down, Paige is forced to confront the fact that he has a crack addiction, and that she has no interest in helping him find his way out of it. This is when Paige has her first experience of not being able to see herself in the mirror. What do you think this episode is about? Why doesn’t Paige share this frightening experience with Pinch? 5. “If you’re a dope dealer, you sell for the freedom of the money, the standing, and for what you believe is the standing up,” Pinch says. “I wasn’t going to look down on our crew if they did start moving crack.” As the women in the group realize that more and more money is appearing almost magically among the men, they are paralyzed. While they don’t approve of the dealing, they also recognize “the warped, strengthening sense of purpose” it gives these men who have never had anything to be proud of. What do you think women in this situation should do? At what point does turning a blind eye become what Pinch calls “secondhand selling”? 6. An ongoing question throughout the novel is: when is it time to leave–a person, a place, a situation, a decision? Her mother’s injunction not to leave “at the first sign of trouble” rings in Pinch’s mind, but she asks herself “Do we leave at the second sign of trouble? The eightieth?” Is the question ever answered? Is the answer different for different characters? 7. Why does May allow people to think he had a hand in Jessica’s death? Is it an attempt to bolster a dangerous reputation, or is he trying to protect Jessica’s parents? 8. Why does Smith wait until the very end of the novel to explain the origin of Pinch’s name, and to reveal that Pinch’s childhood trips to the “orthodontist” were actually visits to a counselor? Has Pinch’s self-mutilating impulse subsided by the time we meet her? 9. What is the significance of Paige’s last diary entry, in which she talks to a puppet about running away from home? What lesson was the puppeteer trying to teach Paige by encouraging her to ask a stranger for money? And why do you suppose Pinch felt it important to show Paige’s writing to their mother? What effect does it have on her? 10. It can be argued that Oscar’s love is the only constant in the girls’ lives, outside of their relationship with each other. Where do you see examples of his devotion? Do you think he and Paige will make it as a couple at the end? Has Oscar taught Pinch anything that she will use on her solo adventure? 11. Has Pinch forgiven Paige for nearly drowning her at Diamond Pool? In what ways do they replay the dynamics of that

Baker & Taylor
Pinch and Paige, two sisters growing up alone in a rundown Oakland mansion, struggle to rebuild a family to replace the one they lost to a violent childhood, only to find themselves increasingly caught up in the fast-money world of drugs.

& Taylor

Pinch and Paige, two sisters growing up alone together in a rundown Oakland mansion, struggle to rebuild a family to replace the one they lost to a violent childhood, from the castoff, offbeat characters in their neighborhood, only to find themselves increasingly caught up in the fast-money world of drugs. A first novel. 35,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2003
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400046447
Branch Call Number: F SMI
Characteristics: 292 p. ; 24 cm


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