I love Leila Allison’s work. To quote “The Dreampurple Light”, “life is so goddamn arrogant.” In one line, she hits a home run. By that sentence, I was already hooked. Leila Allison is a master of voice in all her stories. But this story is my favorite—I love stories about fractured families and sisters. I’m a sucker for broken homes and the aftermath.
The story is about two sisters. Tess, the narrator’s sister sees a dreampurple light in the graveyard she frequents, the narrator does not. Tess tries to explain it but fails, and we find in the next paragraph that methadone cut with cherry syrup comes the closest to the dreampurple. “Just a teaspoon of the right stuff can make you fall to pieces.” And then the story unspools in a beautiful multilayered tapestry. There is the relationship between the two sisters, the abusive mother, the small town ghetto, the way life happens to girls with no father and no real maternal figure. We’re rooting for them to succeed, and the narrator does, in a way. She finds a career, she writes, she has the eyes of someone who has already seen a lot of life and is no longer surprised by it or hopeful that it will ever become easier.
But Tess is chasing the dreampurple escape. I’ve had my fair share of problems with substances, and relationships with those who never kick the shit. What Leila does so beautifully is illustrate how addiction begins as an escape from pain, that an addict is a person, that sometimes we want to better, but we just cannot. That reached up and punched me right in the heart.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but just read it and then also read the rest of her work!