I’d heard a few things about Wetlands, mainly that you needed a strong stomach. But I was going into it sort of blind, because I knew nothing else about it. I can be pretty good at ignoring the hype that goes with the publishing business.
Wetlands is the story of Helen Memel, who has checked herself into hospital following an accident with her razor. We get a highly intimate look into what goes on in her head — and man, is she fucked up. It’s probably the Singaporean in me that’s horrified that someone of that tender age should have had such experiences, and to have revelled in them, too!
There’s definitely something broken in Helen. Is it her parents’ split that’s partly to blame? I have no idea. But kids can be royally screwed up by events at home that have nothing to do with abuse.
While the graphic descriptions of what Helen gets up to and her deliberate lack of hygiene did take me aback somewhat, what struck me was how her audacity, her boldness was really a shield to hide her extreme loneliness and emotional fragility. It was hilariously funny and shocking and sad all at once. I devoured the entire novel in a day.
(I read it while I was eating lunch. I grew up with a family of doctors. Nothing grosses me out.)