Kate’s Review: “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”

119427Book: “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” by Jennifer Lynch

Publishing Info: Pocket, January 1990

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Laura Palmer was introduced to television audiences in the opening scenes of “Twin Peaks”–as a beautiful dead girl, wrapped in plastic. Now available in print for the first time in many years (and in e-book for the very first time!), THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER chronicles Laura’s life from age 12 to her death at 17, and is filled with secrets, character references, and even clues to the identity of her eventual killer. Fans of the show will love seeing their favorite characters again, and Laura’s diary makes compelling reading as she turns from a naive freshman having her first kiss to a “bad girl” experimenting with drugs, sex and the occult.

“As seen by” Jennifer Lynch, creator David Lynch’s daughter, THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER is authentic, creepy, and a perfect book for anyone who loves supernatural suspense.

Review: In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear at this point, I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE “Twin Peaks” fan. It was a show that burned too bright and went out too fast, but went on to change television as we know it. When I finally got to start watching the recent revival, I felt a need to actually get my hands on one of the tie ins to the show that I had heard of, but never actually experienced. That is, of course, the notorious “The Secret Life of Laura Palmer”, a book that is supposed to be the journal of the doomed and tragic Laura Palmer, the victim whose murder kicks off the series. It’s notorious because, similar to books like “Flowers in the Attic” and “Go Ask Alice”, it has a reputation for being salacious and scandalous.

There is definitely something that should be said right away about this book: if you are not familiar with the show “Twin Peaks” and it’s mythos, this book is probably not going to make much sense to you. Jennifer Lynch, daughter of the show’s creator (and amateur meteorologist) David Lynch, writes these diary entries and expects that the reader is going to understand who these characters are and what the significance is to the various situations that Laura describes. So while I knew why it was absolutely upsetting when on page 4 Laura write ‘p.s., I hope BOB doesn’t come tonight’, those who are going in blind would not. My advice would be that if you haven’t seen the show this book should probably be avoided until you have, not only because of confusion but also major spoilers to the plot. All that said, I found it to be a fun(?) read because of the hidden references and the first person perspective from the girl who was dead in episode one. I also have to admit that I smiled pretty broadly every time there was mention of one of my favorite characters from the show, like Bobby Briggs or Audrey Horne. This book also does a good job of expanding upon characters that we only saw through the show’s perspective, and showing sides that perhaps they couldn’t or wouldn’t show after Laura’s murder. This mostly applies to my bae Bobby Briggs. On the show we mostly see an angry teenage boy who makes dumb decisions and generally acts like a brooding whiner. But I loved that in this book we saw the sweet side that was long extinguished by the time we get to know him.

giphy4
When you are both vindicated and hurting in your love for Bobby Briggs. (source)

But, all that said, as fun as the references and new perspectives were, this book doesn’t really tell me anything that I don’t know about Laura Palmer and how awful and sad her life was. If anything, it merely puts the awful abuse, torture, and sadness that she endured on full display. I need to give Jennifer Lynch the utmost credit for writing the voice of a pre-teen to teenage girl so well. As I was reading this book there were so many moments that I thought to myself ‘yep, my diary entries at this age totally sounded like this’ (to an extent), and I think that it was a genius move to let not only a woman, but the daughter of the series creator as well write it. But the authenticity just made all the stories of sexual abuse, drug use, sex work, and violence feel all the more awful. I know that some of the appeal of books like this one and “Flowers in the Attic” is the taboo-ness of reading them, but when you are reading about a teenage girl recounting all the awful things she has been made to do and the reckless and dangerous coping mechanisms she finds herself in, I was less ‘wow this is fun’ and more ‘ugh, this makes me want to take a shower’. It’s not that I found it exploitative, exactly, as I think that Lynch is very good and making it uncomfortable and decidedly NOT sexy. But I did find it upsetting. Which, at it’s heart, Laura Palmer’s story is supposed to be. By seeing this side of her, it shows her as more than just that smiling picture that everyone thinks of when they think of the show.

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” isn’t necessarily a ‘must read’ for fans of the show, and it certainly isn’t a way for people to get an introduction to the show’s universe. But I appreciate that it gives Laura Palmer a more personal voice than the show did (and I can’t speak for the movie “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” as I have not seen it). Maybe I would have had more fun if it was the secret diary of Audrey Horne.

Rating 6: While it’s enjoyable for a “Twin Peaks” fan like me, it doesn’t really add much new to the canon beyond a personal perspective. But that personal perspective is super sad and tragic.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” is included on the Goodreads lists “Epistolary Fiction”, and “Twin Peaks”.

Find “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” at your library using WorldCat!

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