The Dud Avocado
by Elaine Dundy
Guest review by Tarren Young – Thank you, Tarren!
I LOVED this book! Although it took me a month to read it, it wasn’t because it wasn’t fascinating; rather, it was the fact that I borrowed it from the library and had to stop every two to four pages to jot down ideas, quips or quotes from the book instead of being able to highlight in my own copy. This WILL be added to my personal library!
I was floored when, somewhere around page sixty-ish, I realized that this book was fiction and NOT memoir! And that is the number one reason why I loved this book: it’s fiction, but reads like memoir.
The book is told from the perspective of Sally Jay Gorce, a young (we’re not actually told her age, somewhere between eighteen and twenty-two) American who has finally made it to Paris on her Uncle Roger’s dime, in exchange for stopping her numerous runaway attempts from prestigious, and boring, boarding schools on the East Coast of America.
But the problem is, Sally Jay is, as we learn through her foibles, The Dud Avocado—and she doesn’t realize it through most of the story - that she’s green and just a kid. In fact, she gets rather temperamental at the mere mention of someone calling her “kid” which, coincidentally, happens a lot.
I really couldn’t help but laugh at Sally’s insights on her new friends who are “artists” in Paris, or as she calls them “The Hard Core,” and her pet names for all of them - such as the two that have beards and, even thought not related, look so much alike that she calls them “Beard Boring” and “Beard Bubbly.”
I truly think the reason I connected so much with Sally Jay is the fact that she is young and naïve and reminds myself of a younger me, sans the traveling and living in Paris on a two-year monthly stipend from a rich uncle.
Bunny trail: I just realized that mirrors are symbolic in the story because they appear every couple pages or chapters at the least, and I didn’t realize how much they were mentioned throughout the book until now. But it makes sense, as Sally Jay, often looks in and at mirrors, but has a hard time seeing the truth reflected back at her because she is so young and green. She is always trying to run away from something or run into something new and exotic instead of slowing down to reflect on things in her life, until it’s too late. By then she’s already wrapped up in a hot mess of trouble.
Pg. 44 “And in a way I kind of gave up on myself. I gave up wondering if anyone was ever going to understand me at all. If I was ever going to understand myself even. Why was it so difficult anyway? Was I some kind of nut or something? Don’t answer that.” ~I just can’t get over how much Sally Jay talks and thinks like me!
Part two is laid out in a journal format, still with chapters though. Of course the whole book is in first person, Sally Jay telling her own story. But I think it was nice to read the diary format and get into some really deeper things, and some things just quick and nitty gritty.
The avocado scene brings the whole story together. The whole metaphor behind the title, and ultimately true story of Sally Jay’s naivety and realizing that for how much she tried to act and tell herself that she wasn’t naïve, that she wasn’t green, that she was part of the “club,” she never really was, and the realization that she is a Dud Avocado really depresses her.
Honestly, I think this has, hands down, the best love scene I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s very sensual without being overly erotic. It makes you stop to admire all the background details and pine away to know the backstory and dream, longingly, that you too could also be one of those beautiful woman.
I still think Sally Jay is still a bit naïve at the end, even though she is getting married. She has spent her whole life running away from what society tells her she has to do—she doesn’t want to get married. She doesn’t want to have children and cook and do the domestic thing, so when she finally decides to say yes to marriage, she still thinks that’s the end of her life. That she will no longer have the chance to be exotic. I mean, “…it’s the end…!” Is it not?