By Carole Mertz
As clinical psychologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Health & Medicine at Carroll University, Dr. Margaret Kasimatis displays an obvious wealth of understanding of human nature and of the characters she introduces in her novel, Not Pink.
Kasimatis describes a family situation in which, though love for each other is clearly shared, each of five family members are troubled by a particular loss. The novel focuses mainly on Mae, a young girl who at the age of ten is removed from her small family, her mother and her brother Michael, and sent away to a Catholic boarding school. Mae resents her uncle for having implemented this boarding school plan. She sees him as distant and uncaring and she’s angry that her mother has allowed this so-called solution.
Mae doesn’t understand much of her family dynamics and longs to be with her brother Michael, but he’s been sent to military school and they meet only at family Holidays. Mae struggles through seven years of school away from home, full of resentment. Her confusion increases when at age 17 she falls in love with Jack. However, he must soon depart for South America and a job with the Peace Corp. Her infatuation with him seems all-important. What must she do? Abandon her own education, marry him and accompany him to his post in Peru? When she tells her mother and Uncle Nick of her engagement and intention to marry, they immediately reject the plan. She is too young. She has not even completed her high school education. Uncle Nick delivers a firm ultimatum. Thwarted, Mae turns her anger against herself and enters a phase of extremely reckless behavior. She is declaring her independence, but her actions are all taken with the attitude of “I’ll show them!”
I particularly like the clarity with which Kasimatis portrays the forces at work on each of her five characters, helping the reader to see both the negative and positive drives in evidence. Kasimatis carries the reader forward by maintaining an underlying tone that somehow remains hopeful. This, in spite of the fact that Mae will bring suffering and hurt to her family and to herself by the actions she will take.
Alcoholism, drug addiction and self-destructive tendencies, including cutting, are dominant in Mae’s life, even as she tries to assume more responsible roles—eventually as wife and mother.
We also see her coming to face-to-face with the restrictions her Catholic faith has placed on her. That the religious element is respected, not shunted, is another reason to value this novel.
Not Pink lays out the consequences of selfish behaviors; it presents an underlying premise that if one faces the truth, one can begin to construct a meaningful life and contribute to the well-being of one’s family. Seeing the truth allows beneficial change to happen. Kudos to Kasimatis for bringing these lessons to the fore.
The realistic dialogue, the kindred playfulness seen between Mae and her brother, the care their mother feels for her children, the ultimate explanations Michael derives about his mother’s relationship with his uncle and aunt make this a most satisfying novel, genuine in its revelations. Worthwhile for adults to read, it is also suitable for a young adult readership. Its apt description of adolescent behaviors and the complexities of family life bring to mind Loraine Folk’s novel The End of Aphrodite and the short stories in Nancy Gerber’s 2018 collection, A Way out of Nowhere.
Carole Mertz, author of the poetry collection Toward a Peeping Sunrise, reviews regularly for such magazines as Copperfield Review, Dreamers Creative Writing, Eclectica, Mom Egg Review, and South 85 Journal. She has also published with Arc, CutBank, Into the Void, Main Street Rag, and World Literature Today. Mertz resides with her husband in Parma, Ohio.