More of a solid 3.5 stars. An exuberant amount of characters who deal or take meth, but there are some good stories in here; "King Cole's American SalMore of a solid 3.5 stars. An exuberant amount of characters who deal or take meth, but there are some good stories in here; "King Cole's American Salvage," "Storm Warning," and "Boar Taint" were my favorites. (Practically the second half of stories in this collection, for whatever reason.) Tonally there wasn't much range but amongst characters there certainly was, which was impressive....more
120 pages in this was a solid 4 stars for me; I was stoked about this book. But the rest of the memoir was a bit too hit and miss for me.
There are lot120 pages in this was a solid 4 stars for me; I was stoked about this book. But the rest of the memoir was a bit too hit and miss for me.
There are lots of great things to say about this book. Like any strong memoirist, Howard has the nerve and audacity to create the narrative distance needed to tell the truth—however brutal—about the people she portrays, including herself. Her book is a vivid illustration of the evolving and opaque nature of memory in a way that I have not seen in other memoirs. It is also a rich, thorough recreation of the trauma she suffered in losing her father in such a violent, confounding manner. And she has a gift for raising (more like spiking) narrative suspense in a chapter such as "Sherrie Calling: 1992."
But for me, the book began to sag and meander shortly after that chapter. Maybe the chapter in which her former stepmother called out of the blue worked too effectively because after I read it, I wanted to motor through the pages to see the author confront Sherri. Though it provided a fuller portrait of herself as an adult haunted by the trauma of her father's unsolved murder, I wasn't so interested in Howard's trying romantic life—especially after ALL the repetitive mentions of her issues with abandonment. It was tedious to read over the final 140 pages since the same points were made again and again and again.
After the first 120 pages, a decent portion of the chapters felt extraneous to me; they felt like commercials you would grudgingly watch after a TV show cuts to a break after a cliffhanger (MasterChef comes to mind). Chapters like "The Quiet Uncle," "Son and Father," and "Nanette's Faith" felt unnecessary—like pages/stories related to the memoir's central suspense that simply got in the way. It dragged the narrative out, unfortunately; kept me from getting at the meat (so to say; i.e., meeting with Sherrie; seeing what would happen from it; seeing what conclusions the author would make about her father's killer). Those chapters felt obligatory—as though the author felt like she had to include them to reciprocate the kindness she felt from the relatives and loved ones who met with her; I can relate with the difficulty in excising such parts, but still. I felt like the narrative could have been more taut and focused if chapters like those would have been cut.
This is one of the worst books I've read in a while. Well, I didn't read it in its entirety; made it to page 78 before I finally gave up. I tried, triThis is one of the worst books I've read in a while. Well, I didn't read it in its entirety; made it to page 78 before I finally gave up. I tried, tried, tried to like this book. I really wanted to root for it. For fuck's sake, it won the Pulitzer in Fiction, but I could just never get into this book.
The main reason I couldn't get into this book (because you can't call this a story) is because I never once cared for the main character. I just don't feel like Harding ever gave me a reason to. Why should I care that some old dude is dying of bone cancer? And why did the overwhelming focus of the book center on the dying protagonist's father instead of the main character himself? I had to labor to page 70 in order to have a somewhat clear sense of why the author did this, and really, I think that's bullshit. I think I was really patient to slog through 70 pages of a book to figure something like that out. And even after I had a semblance of an idea why, I still didn't care one bit for the dying protagonist.
For me, this book felt more like a thought experiment than a good novel. I understand that Harding is trying to literally describe what it might feel like to die, but I think it could have been interesting and well done if the book was a 1/4 or 1/2 its length. A lot of beautiful prose but there's no conventional plot, no strong character building whatsoever, and more importantly, no urgency to this writing. I came into reading this book with no expectations but I did expect the book to be decent if it's given such a prestigious prize. I think Harding could have made this experiment a stronger piece of literature if he made it poetry instead. ...more
If you're a Stepford-Wife-single-mother type with slight to moderate money-grubbing tendencies, this book might be for you. Lots of practical advice bIf you're a Stepford-Wife-single-mother type with slight to moderate money-grubbing tendencies, this book might be for you. Lots of practical advice but I felt like this author did little to relate to the thousands of single moms who struggle to pay bills and don't have the luxury of owning a house. Fisher's writing rings with the effortless clarity of a long-time journalist. I read this book for research but these were my observations....more
Even though it’s over 500 pages I read this novel in less than two weeks (a fast clip for me) because it was such an engrossing read. I felt like mostEven though it’s over 500 pages I read this novel in less than two weeks (a fast clip for me) because it was such an engrossing read. I felt like most of the main characters, especially Henry, Mike Schwartz and Guert, were well developed. I agree with a couple other reviewers that Pella felt like an uneven character at times, but I found her to be the exception. Overall, their intertwined relationships felt real. Their struggles and inner conflicts were well developed as well; for me, it’s what really hooked me. Skrimshander and Mike Schwartz were especially sympathetic characters—and for different reasons.
(Mild spoiler): For me, the weaknesses of the novel included the plot line involving Owen and the school president. I thought it was way too predictable. Though their story became more interesting for me toward the end I found myself skimming those pages early on because I knew their relationship would not end well. (By contrast, I didn’t know how things would shake out for Skrimshander, Schwartz, and Pella.) And the cumulative ending in the second to last chapter did not feel realistic to me. It felt too neat. Though it’s a small point I also felt like the easy co-existence between heterosexual and gay characters in the novel was simply unrealistic and idyllic. But other than that, I really dug this book....more