Monday, September 29, 2014

The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer
August 19-Sept 25, 2014

The Interestings. Indeed. I have to admit that I resisted reading this one right from the start. But when it was recommended and lent to me by a very trustworthy coworker, I decided to give it a go. My impression from the synopsis was that the characters were going to be a little too old for me to be able to relate. I'm happy to say that I was wrong.

Starting out at an artistic summer camp in 1974, Wolitzer takes us through the lives of six unlikely friends. Jules always felt privileged to be accepted into the group; she never thought she was "interesting" enough. Ethan had a hopeless crush on Jules, one that lasted through adulthood. Ash and her brother Goodman were quite the pair. Jonah allowed unfortunate circumstances from his early childhood to affect the rest of his life. And Cathy was never really trusted by her so-called friends.

While I've read other reviews saying that it seemed nothing really "interesting" ever happened in this book, I need to disagree – to an extent. There were never any "gasp-worthy" moments, no great controversies, but instead it was a good story about friendship and how to remain close to those friends long after your lives take entirely different paths. And ultimately, it's a story about "what if." The story finished in a satisfying way, but not everything was tied up in a bow (which regular readers of my reviews know I hate). Admittedly, I was teary at the end.

Wolitzer has a wonderful writing style. I loved the way she was able to weave between past and present in just a few paragraphs, and never lose site of what she was trying to say. Her prose definitely had a calming effect on me, and I loved the warm fuzzy way I felt when reading about growing up in camp. Such an important time for teenagers (though I begged my parents to never, ever send me to camp!) coming of age and creating their own identities.
But, she knew, you didn’t have to marry your soulmate, and you didn’t even have to marry an Interesting. You didn’t always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation. You could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.

* * * * *

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mother, Mother

by Koren Zailckas
July 21-Aug 18, 2014

I've been sitting on this one for a few weeks now, sort of trying to come up with something interesting to say. I recently joined Blogging for Books, and Mother, Mother was the first novel I received for review. I felt that I owed it to this cool book-sharing service to like it more than I did. The description on the dust jacket is promising, but ...

Josephine Hurst is a mother in control. From the outside, the life she shares with her husband and three children seems perfect. That is until her middle daughter ends up in a psych ward and her son needs home schooling for his own protection. The "mystery" behind it all is what happened to Rose, the eldest daughter. Josephine leads everyone to believe that she ran off with some boy, and her alcoholic husband is no help to anyone in this failing family.

The problems with the story began early on when I found myself wanting more. The characters were unsympathetic, but never completely fleshed out; Josephine, especially, needed to be a little more interesting and convincing as a master manipulator. The plot's potential was never fully realized simply because Zailckas couldn't deliver better detail, insight or character development. And while I am usually never correct in guessing the outcomes of books, I saw this one coming a mile away. Bottom line is that I'm just not into psychological thrillers, especially poorly paced and predictable ones.

Mother, Mother appears to be the first work of fiction by Koren Zailckas. Perhaps memoirs are more her strength.

* * * * *
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.