I chose to read this for two reasons: 1) I thought I wasn't reading enough enjoyable fiction, rather making myself plow through "good-for-me" non-fict...moreI chose to read this for two reasons: 1) I thought I wasn't reading enough enjoyable fiction, rather making myself plow through "good-for-me" non-fiction that felt a bit like a chore... and 2) It seemed like I would likely go to see the upcoming film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper this spring and I wanted to read the book first.
Having finished it, I did not find it to be enjoyable and think it's pretty unlikely at this point that I would choose to go see the film.
The book's first murder occurs on page 10 and it finishes up with two more in the less than three-page coda at the end. In between, seemingly endless violence is done to Earth, animal, and man. The most sinister and creepy violence is directed by the book's namesake. I've read other reviews that compare Serena to Lady Macbeth, a most unfavorable comparison for the Lady. Serena is clearly a psychopath (and her body-count would put any number of small-time villains to shame). Whether that state was induced or cultivated by the childhood traumas she suffered the reader can only guess, but she is terrifying and completely unsympathetic.
Of course no one needs me to say this, but Ron Rash is a very talented author. His descriptions of human sensation are rich and evocative, making even the most mundane of activities or settings a joy to read about. The chorus of lumberjacks are a pleasant and entertaining respite from the otherwise ceaseless violence, though one or another of them is always getting killed off suddenly by the hazards of their job.
In the end, what unraveled my enjoyment of the book was the unbelievability of Serena's hold on her husband Pemberton and her murderous lackey Galloway. These pivotal characters are unidimensional in their obsession with and deference to Serena. Galloway is especially baffling since we never see inside his head. They are both smart and dogged, but have no thoughts or direction without Serena's guidance. As I finished up the book I thought, No way. Someone not wooed by her... whatever... would've done her in before now.(less)
I might recommend this to someone who told me they were specifically looking for a book to make them feel weird and terrible. To me, this book seemed...moreI might recommend this to someone who told me they were specifically looking for a book to make them feel weird and terrible. To me, this book seemed like Franzen's personal screed against human nature and the world --all of the ugly magnified and emphasized, all of the beautiful downplayed and undermined. It's certainly well-written, but the narrative is disjointed and nonsensical in a way The Corrections wasn't. I'm willing enough to suffer a dark book, but always in the hope that I will be challenged or changed in some way. Freedom, despite its author's chops and its lovely cover, did nothing for me, though I did break a personal precedent by skipping the last 20-pages and closing it early.(less)
This is a sweet, well-written young-adult fiction novel with a great and moving final twist. It seems to lean a little heavily on A Wrinkle in Time an...moreThis is a sweet, well-written young-adult fiction novel with a great and moving final twist. It seems to lean a little heavily on A Wrinkle in Time and young readers might be best off reading Madeleine L'Engle first and then reading this. They should also probably watch an episode of the $20,000 Pyramid on YouTube. But the book is darling and fun and the characters are surprisingly complex and truly likable.
The narrator, Miranda, a middle-schooler, made me laugh out loud more than once. For example, she takes a Bit-O-Honey candy from the school secretary, even though she recalls being told that you might as well take a hammer and knock your own teeth out as eat a Bit-O-Honey. Cute kid.
The end is totally unexpected, but falls into place perfectly.(less)