I Crawl Through it tackles education, rape culture, family trauma, and friendship with King’s matter-of-fact surrealism.
Stanzi’s parents leave her the same note every night, “Went to bed. TV dinner in freezer. Make sure to turn out the lights.”
Stanzi’s best fried, China, swallowed herself and is a walking stomach or anus on any given day.
Stanzi knows her friend Lansdale is a chronic liar with Pinocchio hair and four stepmothers.
Stanzi’s love, Gustav, is building an invisible helicopter. She can only see it on Tuesdays.
The bush man is a nudist and a sculptor of letters. He has all the answers.
Except he doesn’t. No one does. And the people who think they do live in an invisible place with no departures. Their answers don’t do anyone any good. Gustav and Stanzi run away to them, but escape with the bush man’s love, Patricia, in tow.
Meanwhile, China runs away to New York, and Lansdale tries to escape in a newscaster’s hotel room.
All of them return to their home town–and each other– to confront reality and find healing. But it’s not like their hometown is perfect. The adults at home are disengaged with their kids’ lives in every meaningful way. Stanzi and her friends go to a school where there is a bomb threat every day. No one knows who is sending the threats, no one seems particularly fussed about it. School is one long series of interruptions. In fact, this book suggests school AS interruption to finding the answers, to living the answers.
Still. [spoilers ahead] Home is where the healing begins. Lansdale cuts her hair and her lies, Gustav gets his Physics teacher to give him credit for building the invisible helicopter, Stanzi confronts her parents about the car accident that killed her baby sister, and China tells her mom what happened.
That scene–when China explains that her ex-boyfriend raped her and then posted pictures of it all over the internet–is one of the most utopian confession scenes ever written. In sum: King handled it tenderly but in a chapter titled “That Little Shit.” She puts China 100% in charge of telling her own story and then she evokes China’s mother’s emotions without muting China’s story. [Wow. Just wow.]
Another revelatory scene happens near the end of the novel when the principal suggests that they’ve found the man making the bomb threats and put him on public display on the football field. When Stanzi goes to investigate, she finds the dangerous bush man circled by her peers and teachers. Everyone is throwing things at him–all their trauma and anger and wrong answers. When she asks why, someone answers “Because he can take it.”
The bush man is a Girard-ian scapegoat if ever there was one. But even that doesn’t work. The only way out of any of this for any of them is to crawl through it.
As a post-script, I particularly enjoyed EW’s review, which you can find here.