Funny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for tFunny, dark, and utterly brilliant: this UNromance is a most original coming-of-age story
It's the 1970s in suburban America and the stage is set for the sort of story that, in a lesser writer's hands, would usually make me fling my e-reader across the room. David is a 30-something physics professor traumatized by the recent loss of his wife and daughter in a plane crash. Molly is his 16-yr-old babysitter set on a collision course with a world far less innocent than she imagines.
But this is no seedy romance - the book is much too feminist for that. Right from the beginning, Ms. Hutchison's trademark unflinching realism grounds us solidly in characters closely observed and fully realized, which means, among other things, that any romance or lack thereof is far from a foregone conclusion.
(We are kept in complete suspense about whether they will ever get together. At various points in the book I was either rooting for them to get it on already or convinced that it was hilariously impossible for them to ever do it. Will they, or won't they? The book kept me guessing and ended up surprising me. It's the most original UNromance that I've ever read.)
Both David and Molly come of age in this book, and we end up rooting for both of them because of how real they are to us. Molly, to give one example, is a very mature and emotionally intelligent young woman, but she also keeps reminding us in little ways that she's indubitably a teenager, with sudden fits of deadly sarcasm, spite, cocky judgement, or endearing cluelessness. David's depression, to give another example, never resembles pathos... instead he's exactly like that guy we all know who turned into a zombie for a couple of weeks and then into an asshole for a few weeks more, until he found his way back to semi-normalcy, flailing and floundering in hilarious ways.
The supporting cast SLAYED me. Cassandra, Molly's mother, is one of my favorite characters ever: she's the feminist mother I want to be (well, barring the awful sculptures, I guess) and I could write pages about all the things I love about her. She's the only person around Molly who's fully an adult, and fully respects Molly's autonomy as a young woman. I admired the heck out of her. Her boyfriend Colin is one of the comic highlights of the book. The Thanksgiving scene left me in stitches.
I am a fan of Sandra Hutchison's first novel, The Awful Mess: A Love Story. (It was one of five semi finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards general fiction category.) I used to be in a writer's group with Sandy many years ago, and I've followed her work ever since. She's one of those writers you can always bank on turning out a great read. And with this book I think she establishes herself as not only technically great but a deeply courageous writer, too. It takes guts to write this kind of story and mastery to pull it off so successfully. ...more
If nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding sIf nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding something new to think about each time in that chapter. Friedan does this trick of hitting it out of the ballpark a couple more times in the book... a ho-hum chapter here and then suddenly WHAM. Certainly makes one sit up.
Though some parts of this book are a little dated (its focus on white middle-to-upper-class women, its insistence on devaluing motherhood, its support of Freudian antihomosexuality etc), there are overwhelmingly more parts of it that are still fresh and very relevant today. This is a must read for any feminist and probably an eye-opening read for anybody else. ...more
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining sLoved this one.
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining stylings by someone who knows how to spin me a good story of little consequence. For example:
There are souls...whose umbilicus has never been cut. They ever got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus.
A scientist can pretend that his work isn't himself, it's merely the impersonal truth. An artist can't hide behind the truth. He can't hide anywhere.
Perhaps it's dubious praise coming from me, since I neither read nor understand most books labeled True Literature (tm), but this sure felt like the real deal. The book felt meaty even though it's quite short, especially for this genre.
I found myself lingering over the simplicity and clarity of the writing, which was sometimes almost poetry. For example, the opening lines:
There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
and later in the book -
Gvarab was old enough that she often wandered and maundered. Attendance at her lectures was small and uneven. She soon picked out the thin boy with big ears as her one constant auditor. She began to lecture for him. The light, steady, intelligent eyes met hers, steadied her, woke her, she flashed to brilliance, regained the vision lost. She soared, and the other students in the room looked up confused or startled, even scared if they had the wits to be scared. Gvarab saw a much larger universe than most people were capable of seeing, and it made them blink. The light-eyed boy watched her steadily. In his face she saw her joy. What she offered, what she had offered for a whole lifetime, what no one had ever shared with her, he shared. He was her brother, across the gulf of fifty years, and her redemption.
For the first time ever I want to ANALYSE a book in a very textbooky fashion after I've read it - I'm going off in daydreams pondering questions like (WARNING: MINOR SPOILER) "Why does Shevek reject his mother? Is this significant in terms of the Odonian belief in gender equality?" (END OF MINOR SPOILER) and "Is LeGuin saying an anarchist society can only exist in a desert, not a land of plenty?" When I was at school, they made us ask and answer such questions on whatever we were supposed to read for Lit class, it used to ruin the book for me.
Another first is that even though I obviously loved this book, and found LeGuin very convincing and very impressive, I'm not a convert to Odonism/anarchism. That's a minor miracle, you know. I'm very convertible. Ask anyone. But LeGuin has a faith in the goodness of human nature that I don't share - in her anarchist Anarres it takes seven generations for even a semblance of a power structure to form; I don't think real human beings would "be good" for a seventh as long. Le Guin's argument is that a strong-enough culture of constant revolution is capable of achieving that. Maybe she's right, who knows? I was brough up in the opposite sort of culture, the capitalist one, which so frequently reminds me that man's basic nature is greed/power-seeking that it probably is self-perpetuating. I probably cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have the other half of human nature - goodwill, sociality, pure love of work/play that is its own reward - reinforced a hundred times a day by the world around me...
There I go on another daydream.
Interesting side note: I read this book in half-hour installments because that's how long my commute to work is, and since I have to walk a little to/from the bus stop, I spent about 10 minutes before and after the half hour reading session thinking about what I had read. That really added to my experience of this book. I think it would have been quite different if I had inhaled it whole in three hours on the couch, as is my usual fashion. Hmm... Something to be said there for patience with one's reading material, but of course it's very rare to find a book that deserves it as much as this one does.
(Immediately, Odo admonishes:
"For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think."
But I disagree: discrimination is important and valuable when it comes to ideas. We cannot go through life treating each as if it were exactly as deserving of our time as the next.)
Well, I can never find a good way to end reviews of this sort. I loved it, I think you should read it, it's an awesome book. That is all....more
A near-perfect YA fantasy whose only shortcoming is the forced "witty" dialogue which is bad enough to throw the reader out of the book enough times tA near-perfect YA fantasy whose only shortcoming is the forced "witty" dialogue which is bad enough to throw the reader out of the book enough times to subtract a star. The book's biggest strengths are its complex and very well thought-out relationships between the characters and the powerful, stunning surprise ending. Definitely worth a read.
The American edition has an unfortunate cover indeed, all pouty lipglossy angst-muffin. I like the UK one much better....more
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoilUrsula Monkton: creepiest villain ever, hands down. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU
I was honestly disappointed that (spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler) she ended up not being the main villain. I was so disappointed with that unnecessary turn of events that I took away one star from this amazing book. Why, Gaiman, why!!! She was perfect! Why did she need to be made insignificant in favor of some other villain that wasn't even a tenth as terrifying.
Everything else about the book was seriously brilliant. One of my favorite recent reads. Can't wait till my kids are old enough for me to read this one to them....more
Wonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so exWonderful retelling of Mahabharata that unfortunately pulls its punches in key scenes and falls short of delivering the explosive payoff that it so expertly builds up to.
Half the trouble is that this book seems to want to be a reinterpretation in many ways but it stays frustratingly faithful to the original in all but one subplot that has no impact on either characters or story. It stays true to the original as a faithful retelling even to the extent of remaining conservative in its morals despite starting off wanting to be feminist.
But there was much to love about this book, most especially the relationship depicted between Krishna and Draupadi. Reading this also made me realize how different Draupadi is from the other Pandava wives in all her choices throughout the story. There is a real heroine there, and the book did a great job highlighting this in such a sly, playful way, as glimpsed through the curtains of her all-too-human flaws and obsessions....more