Review: The Interestings

The Interestings

The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594488399, April 2013, 480pp.)

The Short of It:

Good friends and a healthy dose of nostalgia. So many of life’s ills can be cured with that combination.

The Rest of It:

Goodness, what is there to say? I read this so long ago. Long before my blogging break and yet, it still remains in my heart in some small way. It’s about a group of kids who meet at an art’s camp over the summer. They name themselves “The Interestings” because they all have the hope of becoming something unique once they hit their adult years. Some have money and talent and others, not so much, but what they have in common is a sincere understanding of one another. Wolitzer follows them into adulthood and the end result is a fascinating look at relationships and how they weather the test of time.

I adored this book. Simply adored it. I listened to part of it on audio and it was fantastic but I also read some of it in print and it was wonderful as well. The story is told by Jules Jacobson as she meets and befriends this group of kids. She’s got the right amount of confidence and awkwardness. Just enough to make her likable and her ability to take in a situation and react accordingly is admirable. She’s level-headed, bright, but not perfect. In fact, none of these kids are perfect. Their outer shells sometimes make them appear that way, but inside, they are all vulnerable which is what makes this group of kids especially readable.

But don’t think that this is a young adult novel, because it’s not. They enter adulthood rather quickly and as with most things, their shine dulls a bit until they find steady ground. The aftermath of a rape, is what propels them quickly into adulthood and the way that they handle the event and the loyalty to one particular character is what eventually divides them. But their journey is somehow interesting even though much of it is somewhat mundane. College, career, marriage, children. The rut of adulthood is also the impetus to propel them forward.

Some readers have said that they found the book to go on a little too long. It’s chunky and goes along at a steady pace, but I didn’t find it to be long at all. In fact, I found myself not wanting it to end. I had grown close to these characters and through the course of reading the book, I felt as if I knew them and that they could easily be people I know now. There was a familiarity that was comforting. You know that movie The Big Chill? It was sort of like watching that movie. A circle of friends, made tighter by tragedy. The easy interactions, the “what if” questions, the effect that passing years has on a person or marriage. Everyone has that one friend that they think of no matter how many years go by, and so I think many readers can relate to what happens in this story.

Reading this book is like visiting with old friends and I loved it for that reason. I loved it for all the memories that it brought back to me from my own teen years and the fact that it was well written certainly didn’t hurt.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Night Film

Night Film

Night Film
By Marisha Pessl
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067886, August 20, 2013. 624pp.)

The Short of It:

A completely absorbing literary thriller that’s both smart and alluring.

The Rest of It:

Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building on a cold October night. Her death is ruled a suicide but investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks otherwise. As the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, known for his horror films and his reclusive nature, Ashley’s mysterious death sparks the interest of many, including all of the fans who call themselves Cordovites. As Scott assembles a team to assist him in the investigation, his love of Cordova’s work and his obsession over the director himself, puts him front and center. Danger lurks everywhere and as they dig deeper into a life that has basically been in hiding for more than twenty years, the answers they find surprise them.

This novel will most likely be my favorite book of the year. I felt it within the first fifty pages and after 600+ pages, the feeling stuck This is the type of novel that makes reading an experience. I can’t deny  it, I totally ignored my family while reading this one. The kids and Hub were left to forage for food, laundry piled up and the Otter Pup tried to sit on my head to get my attention. It’s hard to say if everyone will have this same reaction. I’ve seen a few reviews and some were less enthused by it, but there was much to love.

I’ll point out just a few of the things that made this a five-star read for me:

  • Top-notch writing
  • Engaging, likable characters
  • The puzzle aspect of the story
  • It’s all dark and drizzly and the cult-horror thing worked for me
  • The inclusion of web pages, articles and the like to move the story along
  • The fact that the films within the story were all made-up yet seemed fully fleshed out
  • The back story of all the key players
  • Pessl’s ability to toss red herrings in over and over again and somehow not lose the reader along the way
  • Reading it felt absolutely forbidden which made it all the more appealing

In the midst of all this darkness, there is humor. McGrath’s self-deprecating nature made for some humorous moments and his love of the genre shines through, which makes his quest to find the truth even more plausible. it could have been edited down a bit but I didn’t mind since I ended up stretching it out for as long as I could anyway. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. As soon as I finished, I immediately had to talk about it with others who read it and that conversation even included possible casting choices for the movie, because I know it will be made into a film. Actually, I did see a listing for it on IMDb but I am not seeing it as of this writing.

That said, this entire review is based on how it made me feel while reading it. it sent shivers up my spine and there were times where I gasped out loud. It’s the type of book that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. I will say this, the inclusion of photos and news articles makes this book one that you want to read in print. Turning the page and seeing an obituary is quite startling. I don’t think you’d have the same reaction if someone just read it to you (audio) and I am not sure how those pages would translate in e-book form.

If you pick it up, let me know. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Heading Out to Wonderful

Heading Out to Wonderful
Heading Out to Wonderful
By Robert Goolrick
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Paperback, 9781616202798, January 2013, 313pp.)

The Short of It:

Complex, well-developed characters and the lure of small town life make Heading Out to Wonderful an entertaining read.

The Rest of It:

The story takes place in Brownsburg, Virginia just after World War II. Brownsburg is a small town, population 538. The kind of simple, southern town you’ve come to know from movies and books. Everyone knows everyone so when a stranger by the name of Charlie Beale arrives, people can’t help but notice. In one hand, he carries a suitcase full of knives and in the other, a whole lot of money. After getting a job at the local butcher, he ends up befriending the butcher’s young, five-year-old son, Sam. The two become inseparable. For a while, it looks as if Charlie has found a place to call home.

Boaty Glass, the richest man in Brownsburg buys himself a young farm girl to become his wife. Sylvan is young and beautiful but not as dumb as Boaty thinks. After securing her place firmly within his home, she transforms herself into a shiny, sparkly thing, surrounded by the best that life has to offer which includes a custom wardrobe made by a woman in town. Impressed with the Hollywood starlets she sees at the movie house, she begins to model herself after them. Wanting nothing but fame and fortune, she begins to resent her time with Boaty and Boaty has taken to putting her in her place, both verbally and physically.

When Charlie Beale sees Sylvan for the first time, he sees a beautiful girl, trapped in a marriage she does not want. The need to save her becomes an obsession and when the two begin to meet regularly, you quickly realize that no good can come of it.

I’m not sure how well-received this book was when it first came out. Following the wickedly good, A Reliable Wife, I am guessing it did pretty well. But for some reason this one slipped past my radar until just recently. I am so glad I finally picked it up.

This book has a little bit of everything. There’s the love triangle of course which makes for some juicy reading, but the small town feel of it and the friendship between Beale and the boy seemed especially tender. There was a sweetness to all the nastiness and Sylvan Glass was such an interesting woman creature. As wicked as she was, I felt as if I understood where she was coming from, which always surprises me. I don’t consider myself a vindictive, conniving human being but I must have a dark streak somewhere because I eat this stuff up.

I enjoyed Heading Out to Wonderful very much.  It’s the type of book that makes you question motive and with characters like Sylvan and Boaty, you could spend hours trying to figure them out. Plus, the writing has that atmospheric quality that always pulls me in. Goolrick’s take on small town life really puts you right in the center of town. It’s quite impressive how quickly I was pulled into the story. If I were to compare his two books, I’d say this one is the tamer of the two, but certainly no less complex than the other.

If you haven’t given his books a try, do so!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Slippage

The Slippage

The Slippage
By Ben Greenman
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061990519, April 2013, 288pp.)

The Short of It:

A fractured, splintered view of a marriage in decline.

The Rest of It:

When I first saw the title of this book I was immediately reminded of  California earthquake faults and how they slip and slide every ten years to give us a good jolt of reality. Oddly enough, that’s kinda what this book is about. Marriage, on the brink of disaster and how the fissures eventually become full-on cracks if you let them run their course.

William and Louisa Day live in suburban bliss. Nice house, great neighborhood, interesting neighbors. One afternoon, while hosting one of his famous parties, William realizes that Louisa hasn’t come out to greet their guests. After trying to juggle his meet and greet duties along with cooking the food they are about to eat he goes in search of Louisa and finds her locked in their junk room. Forced to talk to her through the door, she seems okay but refuses to come out and only comes out after her drunk brother shows up and causes quite the scene.

Shortly after the party, Louisa tells William that she’s bought a plot of land and wants him to build her a new house. This innocent and somewhat far-fetched request triggers introspection but when an old flame of William’s moves into their neighborhood and rekindles what they started long ago, William’s not really sure what he wants.

The book opens with the party scene and within just a few pages, I was hooked. William is one of those funny, sarcastic guys that people don’t really pay attention to. His humor, if you can call it that, inserts itself innocently but the people on the other side of it rarely pick-up on his sarcasm. As he plods through life, you willingly follow along because although he’s a cheater and seems clueless about what his wife wants, he’s somehow more human than say the “suits” that he has to deal with at work or the guy next door or down the street.

As much as I love stories like this one, I had some trouble with Louisa. In one sense, she appears to be the voice of reason but her odd behavior, hiding behind closed doors and hoarding junk mail made me wonder if she was a little off. The other thing that bothered me is that William and Louisa hardly interact at all. Their interactions are short and abbreviated and her comments about anything had a throwaway quality to them. As if she was saying them just to say something. Perhaps, that is what a marriage in decline is like, but there was no heat… no tension. I expected there to be lots of it given the fact that their marriage was on the line. To me, they were looking at each other through a broken mirror. Their images greatly exaggerated and skewed.

After finishing the book, I concluded that all the women in the book seemed a little off. I couldn’t relate to any of them and found myself relating more to William which surprised me. As negative as that may sound, I still enjoyed the book quite a bit. Greenman’s take on suburbia was spot on. That party scene alone won me over and the wry humor made what could have been a very depressing novel, somewhat comical.

It’s not perfect, but what marriage is? If you’re like me and want to read something a little different this summer, give this one a try. It will give you a lot to think about.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife
By A.S.A. Harrison
Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143123231, June 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Two people. One marriage. Deception at its finest.

The Rest of It:

Jodi and Todd Gilbert have it all. She’s a successful therapist who’s successful enough to pick and choose who she treats on a day-to-day basis. He’s a real estate developer who knows how to turn a run-down building into profit. Together, they live in their swank, well-appointed Chicago condo and their lives are very comfortable. After a long day at the office, Todd comes home to a plate of artfully arranged canapés made by Jodi herself and Todd mixes the cocktails for them both to enjoy while looking out at the sweeping views of the city before them.

All is not golden. After twenty years together, the excitement of being with one another has dimmed to a flicker yet they’re both willing to push this aside since there is still so much to gain from such a relationship. Jodi seems to know her place as the beautiful, dutiful wife and Todd’s need to “be a guy” is not dampened in the slightest by Jodi because she “gets” him. She understands him like no other woman can and as long as he continues to keep her happy with the thoughtful gifts that he picks up for her every now and then, she seems content and that’s all Todd wants, is for her to be happy and content.

Oddly enough, Jodi feels the same way and overlooks Todd’s numerous indiscretions. He works hard, Plays hard and can’t be expected to toe the line every single moment, can he? But when one of his indiscretions turns into something more serious, Jodi begins to assert herself in a way that Todd is not accustomed to. But even this is so deceptively subtle, that it goes right over Todd’s head. Somehow, he’s convinced himself that he can have both. That he can be the happy husband with Jodi at home whenever he needs her, and that he can have Natasha, the daughter of his best friend whenever he feels the need for change.

This book is deceptively simple as far as plot goes but what makes the story so compelling is how the author handles the characters. These are sophisticated types and the way they handle themselves is not how you or I (or any normal person) would behave in a situation like theirs. They are even-tempered, cool even… and rarely break a sweat. At one point, I felt that Jodi was a cold, calculated woman but I liked her for being that way. I liked her for the way she put distance between herself and the situation. Something would happen and she’d take it all in stride with only a small tell that anything was amiss. I found both Jodi and Todd to be fascinating characters.

The story is told in alternating chapters titled “Her” and “Him” so you get both sides of the story and what each chracter is feeling at any given point. This back and forth format delivers, innocently, their motivations behind their actions but then later you realize that what seemed so innocent early on was really a pre-cursor to the total and utter destruction that follows.

This book is marketed as a thriller and I can see why. The level of suspense builds to a point where you just have no idea how the story will end and although you get to know the characters and their feelings quite intimately, you can’t predict what they’ll do. There are small implosions that occur throughout the book. Little upsets telling you that things are not looking good and I loved every one of them. This book will have you questioning right and wrong right up to the very last page. I am still thinking about the book. Plus, it’s so well-written and tastefully done. I really loved it.

Sadly, A.S.A. Harrison recently passed away so she isn’t around to receive the praise that this book will most surely garner but I am still screaming from the rooftops singing its praises. You have to read it! I loved everything about and I don’t say that too often.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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