Just finished this in one sitting, my first experience with this author. Mixed feelings, but in the end I have to agree with the reviewers who calledJust finished this in one sitting, my first experience with this author. Mixed feelings, but in the end I have to agree with the reviewers who called for more detail and more story. There is a lot of energy spent in the first half of the book describing the mother visiting the daughter in the hospital and many conversations between the two about gossip, celebrities, failed marriages, affairs--but I'm not sure what we're supposed to glean from this. Despite numerous exclamations: "Mommy, I love you!" --in the end, we don't know or really care, nor do we understand why the mother is so aloof and cold. Eventually, the distance Lucy Barton feels toward her mother appears to replicate to her husband, her siblings, and her father, making her entire family a lost cause, but again, no one seems to be worth caring about.
I'm guessing that Strout perhaps is trying to make a statement about modern American women as helpers and healers, always trying to make up for others' shortcomings--but she doesn't dig deep enough to bring this point home.
Other strange incidences puzzled me. Snakes in trucks? Being locked in a truck as a child? And the father...an abuser with a kind side? Brother sleeping next to pigs?! I was totally lost with these underdeveloped scenes and references.
I liked that the author created context-- first with the 80's and AIDS epidemic, and later with 9/11, but it felt like too little too late, and almost felt like another book entirely. The inclusion of another fictional writer's influence, Sarah Payne, (think "Pain") is also interesting, but the irony is not lost on me that the author failed, in this case, to take Sarah's advice to heart for the sake of this book. Payne told Lucy Barton to "be ruthless" in her writing. But Strout didn't do it here....more
In this creative approach to writing about the "men of influence" in her life, Parker proves herself in this first effort to be a witty and sophisticaIn this creative approach to writing about the "men of influence" in her life, Parker proves herself in this first effort to be a witty and sophisticated storyteller, who cuts to the chase in what appears to be a rather effortless narrative/memoir. I read that she wrote this while in the hospital over a four-month period, and so was surprised at the control she has over the detail and story arcs, as if she'd written it on vacation.
Despite a few repetitious passages (...I wrote a poem for him...) a borderline cliche that pops up a few times, there is good literary bandwidth here, with reflections on influencers ranging from the author's doctor, to her father, to a grandfather she never met, to an irate New York City cabdriver, to an acting class movement instructor, to a 9/11 firefighter. Narratives like "Dear Gorgeous" are vaguely reminiscent of Pam Houston's dry and yet abandoned meditations on attraction in "Cowboys Are My Weakness." There are also several laugh out loud moments, including her stint at an organic market in the 80's, throwing cheese up in the air to see if an overhead ceiling fan would convert it to shreds. Settings range from New York to LA "on steroids," and serve as perfect vehicles for Parker's recollections.
While the "Dear, You," literary device is certainly something we've seen in contemporary literature before, (I'm thinking "Dear American Airlines" by Jonathan Miles, among others), Parker raises the literary stakes with her own unique voice and style.
I had the pleasure of taking yoga with Ms. Parker in New York in the 90's, and I'm pleased to say everything she learned about flow and sequencing is well represented in this work. Read it in one sitting. ...more
I was not crazy about this book. While the writing was good, much if it felt forced, and I didn't feel particularly moved by any of it. Felt more likeI was not crazy about this book. While the writing was good, much if it felt forced, and I didn't feel particularly moved by any of it. Felt more like I was in a writing workshop and reading something overly crafted to impress. ...more
I wasn't sure what to expect given some of the reviews, but wow, I really found this book engaging, authentic, and perfectly paced--in the sense thatI wasn't sure what to expect given some of the reviews, but wow, I really found this book engaging, authentic, and perfectly paced--in the sense that the passage of time and the chapters were organized and balanced. Not only did the author powerfully convey the minority experience in college in America today, but she really showed us so many truisms about relationships, family life, economic inequality and social issues--without falling into sentimentalism or the need to wrap up everything neatly at the end. While there were minimal physical descriptions, the dialogue was so real I often felt like I was in the same room as these characters. I highly recommend this book, and can't wait to read more by the author....more
**spoiler alert** Overall, I enjoyed the suspense of this book and the "you" narration seemed to fit. The author did a nice job with pacing, and evoki**spoiler alert** Overall, I enjoyed the suspense of this book and the "you" narration seemed to fit. The author did a nice job with pacing, and evoking secondary characters quickly and effectively. That being said, I'm the kind of reader who likes an equal balance of character and plot, and I unfortunately didn't feel myself rooting for or caring for the protagonist all that much, and felt fairly distanced from her. I think the author was relying on the protagonist's unfortunate circumstances, past and present, for us to sympathize with her. I also feel that the end of the book was rather disappointing, and would have liked to have seen more closeness between the sisters dramatized or sprinkled through the narrative, rather then this surprise twist at the end involving the husband's affair.
I have several of the author's other novels and still looking forward to them....more