Monday, August 22, 2011

Moving Pieces by Emily Maroutian

Book:  Moving Pieces
Author:  Emily Maroutian
Publisher:  Maroutian Entertainment

A few years ago, a former boss introduced me to the sport of “Airport Reading”.  We were flying to Boston, or Atlanta, or San Antonio, or some such place, and she drug me, almost literally, into one of the ubiquitous airport bookstores that populate terminals across the land.  She made a beeline to the large display set up for Kitty Kelley’s Nancy Reagan:  The Unauthorized Biography, and grabbed the first one she could get her sweaty little hands on, she plopped her hard-earned cash down on the counter before the startled clerk could scurry around the counter to even ring her up.  I looked at her with a bit of surprise, thinking, “Hmmm.  What just happened here?”

She scooped up her change, and whisked me on to the gate to catch our plane.  When we were finally settled in our tin can with wings, I asked her about the purchase.  She ‘Shushed!’ me, swore me to secrecy, and then explained the concept of “Airport Reading”.  To cut a long story short, it’s every traveler’s dirty little secret, the book you would never admit to wanting to read, let alone pay money for in front of your friends or family.  You read it when you travel, then leave it behind in the seatback pocket of the airplane, the evidence lost forever.  Since then, I’ve made it a point to check out each and every book that my co-travelers are reading to see what dirty little secrets abound around me.  Surprisingly, a large number of them read Johanna Lindsey’s bodice rippers and things like Chicken Soup for the Lousy Rat-Ass Bastard’s Soul.

Okay, I made that last one up – as a matter of principle, I refuse to invoke the name of She Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken.  Come on, you all know who she is now, dontcha?  [wink]

Be that as it may, I must apologize profusely to Emily Maroutian.  I found myself heading out of town, and grabbed her book, Moving Pieces, as I rushed out the door.  Much to my chagrin, there was no way to avoid being publicly seen reading her book in the Dulles, Atlanta, and Evansville airports, and on connecting flights.  While fellow travelers might have smiled knowingly and assumed "Airport Reading", the book is not a dirty little secret, it was not abandoned on an airplane, and it will remain firmly entrenched in my possession.


Moving Pieces, follows a week in the life of the nameless Narrator, a lost soul searching for some thing of meaning.  Some looking glass to bring the disparate pieces of an unsatisfying existence into focus.  The Narrator takes a road trip to San Francisco to listen to some music and hang out.  While not long on planning, the trip serves to break up the numbing routine of everyday life in Los Angeles.  When the Narrator and best friend arrive at the first destination to listen to a friend’s band, the narrator meets Anari, an infectious, beautiful, punk rock Goddess that turns the Narrator upside down and inside out.  However, Anari is the modern definition of a woman in Punk, her soul damaged by a man that will never love her, and unwilling or unable to break the poisonous bond that holds her down. 

The Narrator and best friend hang out with the musician friend and his band, drink too much, sleep too little, and visit some clubs to catch a bit of music.  The Narrator climbs on the roller coaster that is Anari, getting closer and being pushed away.  Finally, coming to terms with opening up to love, and how that new feeling changes every element of life.  However, Anari pushes away any attempt at love, and the Narrator begins the return trip to Los Angeles with a new vision and perspective on self and life.  

Moving Pieces is a fascinating book on many levels, and no discussion on the story can be held without first mentioning that the Narrator, by intent, remains genderless.  It can be a man or it can be a woman, and it’s left completely up to the reader to choose which.  And, with that choosing, comes a slightly different book.  I appreciate the difficulty in writing a solid story under this convention, and understand the shifting sands the author navigated to construct a narrative that works on multiple levels.  I fully anticipated that I would read the book from the perspective of a woman, but found that my mind wrapped itself around a male character.  And, in all honesty, I have to say that disappointed me a bit. 

That’s not to say the book disappointed me, I just really wanted the Narrator to be a woman!  ARGH!

Cooler heads prevailed, and the second time through the book, I forced myself to make the Narrator a woman.  And, as Ms. Maroutian promised, I was surprised at the interesting level of complexity that worked its way into the story.  As a woman, the narrator becomes a lesbian with a male best friend.  She is a woman that, in terms of school and work, has existed and outwardly succeeded in a life of external expectation.  She is a woman that has embraced addiction as a means of coping, and then sobriety as a method of surviving.  She knows she wants something, but doesn’t know what it is.  And, she’s not entirely convinced that if she finds it, that she should have it. 

She exists in a confusing place.  At times, her clarity is startling, but she continues to snuff the clarity with self-doubt.  Time and again, she tells us that she’s not very smart, that she wishes she participated in intellectual conversations.  However, she is smart, and she does participate, even if it’s not necessarily on a vocal level. 

She’s also maturing, and like a lock, the pins are methodically clicking into place.  As the story progresses, we see her taking small then larger steps towards self-realization.  She begins the migration from listening to other people’s words to creating words that others will listen to.  She begins to see each of the pieces, understand their relationships and their dependencies, and accept that as much as things change, they stay the same.

There’s no magic elixir in life, we can learn new things, go to new places, and meet new people, but we are who we are.  The trick is to own yourself and the space that you create.  You might feel like an innocuous piece of sky, but in the big picture, there’s a gapping hole without you. Emily Maroutian’s Moving Pieces is the kind of book that forces you to focus the bright light inward, because the book isn’t about a genderless Narrator, it’s about each and every one of us.

The story might be a little heavy for some readers, but it’s a quick read and well worth the internal dialogue that will invariably clutter your brain.  Moving Pieces doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of addictive personalities or the brutal honesty required to live with it and survive your "self".  Emily Maroutian is a smart, skilled, and gutsy writer, with a unique vision and a story to share.  I’m giving this novel a 4.9 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.  It was fascinating, and different, and worth the multiple reads to experience both Narrators.


  1. Like the title presented, this review was both alluing and a little vexing. Ms West showed us enough of the storyline to tease out a solid interest in the book, with more questions than answers. I'll be checking it out.

  2. I'll be checking it out, too. Ms. Maroutian sounds like a fascinating person with a knack for getting her work out there. I admire that!

  3. Hmmm. Just what I need. A book I have to read twice! But it looks interesting enough to read at least once.

  4. Interesting, the story is. [now you have me sounding like Yoda] I doubt most people will give the book a second read only for the experience of the alternate Narrator, but my brain wouldn't let me walk away without understanding how the male vs. female Narrator changed the dynamics and the emotional load. Think: same yet different.