Book Reviews

52 Books/52 Weeks: Carly J. Hallman, A Farewell To Walmart

farewell-to-walmart

A Farewell To Walmart
Carly J. Hallman
Little A

It must suck, having determined at eight years old that one is inherently superior to the world around them. It must have been tremendously annoying, being forced to have lived a childhood that is absolutely normal. The horrors of an unspectacular yet unforgivably uneventful coming of age is a relatively new phenomenon, one borne out of a youth culture that increasingly disdains stability and comfort. Millennial author Carly Hallman’s novella, A Farewell To Walmart, is the epitome of this relatively new concept in the post-happiness world–shallow recollections from a young woman who mistakes her otherwise dull, atypical life for being edgy, different, rebellious.

A Farewell To Walmart initially proves entertaining—her recollection of being fascinated by the concept of the stores lobster tank versus the reality of it is adorable, and her tale of the horrors of being forced to participate in a fashion show makes for amusing reading. Yet as Hallman grows into a teenager, the stories become less interesting, and the evidence builds that she’s become embittered young adult with nothing but disdain for everyone and everything around her. (I could be wrong, but there’s absolutely nothing in the way of real foresight or reflection to make me think otherwise.) Instead of any kind of knowledge or wisdom gained from her youth, one simply sees an unapologetic and unsympathetic class hatred for the residents of her “small town,” who are, in her eyes, ignorant, overweight, backwards, and unforgivably not her.

What makes Hallman’s writing so sad is that it contains judgment without insight, experience without understanding. Happiness for Hallman comes only from escape, and with escape comes the ability to sneer at and judge those she assumed to have sneered at and judged her. Having moved from San Diego to the “small town” of Granbury, Texas must have seemed a culture shock, but then again, no seven year old is intuitive enough for the insights their adult self invariably imparts on their younger selves. Nor does Walmart play any real role in her short work, A Farewell To Walmart, other than to serve as the center of her scorn and derision of Middle America.

A Farewell To Walmart isn’t so much a coming of age story—one imagines Hallman having difficulty understanding that her oh-so unique story isn’t unique at all—inasmuch as it is the Portrait Of The Artist As An Insufferable Prig. Then again, simply because one has an English degree and a chip on their shoulder doesn’t mean that they have any actual insight or wisdom into their bitterness. If anything, this book is tragic—not for the tale that it tells, but for presenting the overwhelming evidence that even though its author has some writing talent, she is headed for a life of bitterness, cynicism, and unhappiness, based on a narrow-minded perception and prejudice towards a culture that she seemingly made little to no attempt to understand.  Even sadder is that people of this mindset often mistake their prejudices for enlightenment, and in today’s culture, that mindset is only going to grow stronger…

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