Part IV and the Epilogue of Adicia’s story are now pasted into my master document of the manuscript, making it 1,269 double-spaced pages (not counting the opening pages with the table of contents et al) and still around the length of The Brothers Karamazov. I’ve taken out unnecessary “that”s, started making contractions, and done other things to shave the length down a tiny bit without compromising the essence. So Part IV plus the Epilogue are probably going to be around 145,000 words after that’s done, down from 147,000.
Part IV, “The Velveteen Ragdoll,” and the Epilogue, “Finally Dressed in Lace,” have the potential to stand alone as their own book, but at the same time, as self-standing as the storyline is, it can really only work when taken as part of a large whole. I deliberately constructed the story arc to cover September 1959 to July 1973 in the meat of the story, and to cover May to July 1974 in the Epilogue. Nothing is really resolved at the end of Part III. The story of Part IV only makes sense when it’s the culmination of everything that’s come before, the final payoff of all that growth Adicia has undergone, all her and her siblings’ efforts to get out of their generational poverty and Manhattan.
During Parts I through III, Adicia has stayed in her parents’ toxic home and given into many of the horrific demands of her mother, who is a disgrace to motherhood and one of the most black-hearted characters I’ve ever created. Mrs. Troy is right up there with antagonists like Urma Smart and Boris Malenkov. She’s obeyed her sinister mother’s demands to, among other awful things, leave Allen and Lenore in the West Village and literally descend into Hell (Hell’s Kitchen) on Xmas Eve 1962 and to give up her virginity (in August 1969, at age 15) in exchange for $3,000 that would save Mrs. Troy from returning to prison for not paying back all the money she embezzled in ’62, and the guarantee of being allowed to graduate high school and get a handsome husband with a nice job. Adicia’s older sisters and her one good brother Allen all ran away from their toxic home environment, but Adicia has stayed to protect her baby sister Justine.
Then, in Part IV, Adicia finally realizes she can’t be a passive victim anymore, and that she must save herself, even if it means leaving Justine behind for a little while. She won’t be forced into marriage to a much-older ex-con who beat his first wife to death. After she gets home from being forced to meet this creep for a “test drive,” she decides she’s had enough and runs up the street to Ricky’s house, while his parents are away in the Hamptons for the week. They come up with a plan for Adicia to run away by herself and then somehow send for Justine, but as Adicia is walking past Tompkins Square Park, she sees her mother and turns around, racing back to Ricky’s house. And thus the plot thickens as they hatch a plan to run away together and enter a convenience marriage of sorts.
Adicia thinks she’s finally getting a happy ending, a real rags to riches story like the Five Little Peppers got when Jasper King befriended them and eventually moved all of them into his father’s mansion. The rug is yanked from under her when Ricky is drafted (his number is 88, one of the last numbers to be called up in the last active year of the draft lottery). Because Adicia has been so passive and obedient her whole life, she doesn’t think she can hack it as the mistress of the house at only 18 years old. But then she starts realizing she’s a lot stronger and more self-sufficient than she ever gave herself credit for, and that she’s grown to deeply love Ricky like a wife loves a husband. When and how she started falling for him aren’t important.
And since she’s in the thick of women’s lib, she starts educating herself by reading all the current books on the struggle for equality. While she disagrees with some of the more radical feminists who say all marriage is slavery and that all men hate and want to oppress women, she does start waking up to her own potential. Adicia resents how so many people passively view her as Ricky’s wife, “Mrs. Warrick Carson,” and are always feeling sorry for her because she’s only 18, is so petite, and has to deal with a husband in Vietnam, running a household, and expecting a baby. In a way, her nightmare of being separated from Ricky is what finally forces to stand on her own two feet and is, in a twisted way, the best thing that ever happened to her.
But that storyline doesn’t really make sense if it’s not attached to the larger storyline of Adicia’s growing-up and all the inner-growth she goes through. Adicia’s character can only be understood when she’s been followed since childhood. Her whole life, she’s dreamt of leaving her poor class origins and the old neighborhood behind, and of finding a guy from the outside world who’ll love her just the way she is. She also doesn’t want to escape without Justine, whom she’s viewed as her baby and vowed to protect ever since she was born in March 1959. Some people might view Parts I through III as a long piece of backstory to the conclusion of the book, but the first three parts are part of the large, slowly-evolving story arc, all driving towards Adicia’s unusual happy ending and what she does when she finds her happy ending is taken away from her too soon.
It’s the same way Parts I and II can’t stand alone, since the ending is so depressing and nothing is really resolved. Part III couldn’t be the second book of a pretended trilogy, since it doesn’t have its own storyline. It’s a continuation of the storyline that’s already begun. Part IV is merely the payoff of everything that came before, and the Epilogue ties up the remaining loose ends and provides a happy, sweet ending Adicia more than deserves after she waited so long and went through so much.
I know it’s considered very long by current standards, but it’s the perfect length for the story that unfurled. It’s deliberately slower-paced, since it spans 15 years, and has a deliberately large story arc. The story that emerged for Adicia, her siblings, and their friends just happened to be very long because it wasn’t the type of story that could be easily developed and resolved within 400 pages or accurately presented over 4 or 5 books.