I've been slowly making my way through Sarah Addison Allen's catalog, slowly savoring each book. So far, I have loved each one, but I think that The GI've been slowly making my way through Sarah Addison Allen's catalog, slowly savoring each book. So far, I have loved each one, but I think that The Girl Who Chased the Moon and this one have tied as my favorites.
What is it that I love about them? Each one features characters whose struggles are primarily with themselves, as they learn to accept their own hearts and longings. As they learn to, as Whitman said, celebrate themselves. Their hometowns are occasionally stifling, but they are also supportive. Their towns are places where magic is real but not to be talked about, where the history lives along the present.
It was extremely predictable, which is why it gets four stars rather than five and is not listed on my favorites shelf. HoI greatly enjoyed this book.
It was extremely predictable, which is why it gets four stars rather than five and is not listed on my favorites shelf. However, despite that failing, the book was entertaining and frequently lovely.
Ahern is a gifted writer. She's able to litter the everyday world with magic. Her characters seldom think twice about the way reality bends around them, and she's also able to get readers to suspend their disbelief.
From the few books that I've read, I'd say her work seems to focus on recovering from mistakes and embracing the glorious nature of one's own life.
Lucy's life is something of a mess. She's working a job she hates, among people she despises, and she dreads every interaction with her family. Her apartment is small and barely livable, and she's got an illegal cat. Before the start of the book, she receives cards mysteriously arriving in her apartment. They're from the Life Agency, and they're informing her that she has an appointment. As the book opens, Lucy is finally forced to keep that appointment. Her life turns out to be an ugly man, and she despises him on sight. Lucy is unable to avoid him, though, and she's forced to confront why she hates her own life so thoroughly. He is, he explains, something like the xray of a broken bone; he is the visible proof of what's wrong with her life. And he's going to follow her everywhere until she starts to face the decisions that have put her on this miserable path.
(view spoiler)[Her life winds up being something like Nanny McFee; as she comes to make better decisions and enjoy her own life again, he becomes more attractive and happier. Cheesy, I know, but fun nonetheless. (hide spoiler)]
Ahern's writing style is very interesting to me. She tends to take her characters just a little further than I'd like into embarrassing situations. Still, those situations seem real, and her ability to take readers along on her characters' mental journeys is fascinating. As a reader, I can point out the many plot and reality holes surrounding Ahern's Life Agency, but as the read the book, I really didn't want to. That may be what I think is Ahern's gift: she makes the implausible seem, if not likely, something you wish were likely. (That said, I'd rather not meet my life, thank you.)...more
I've tried to read Ahern's books before. I tried both Thanks for the Memories and Love Rosie, but I couldn't finish them. For some reason, I bogged down in the middle of the book, and it simply could not hold my interest. Still, I could tell that Ahern was a very good writer, and I kept giving her books a chance because I knew that one of them would work for me eventually.
This one was it.
It's the story of Tamara Goodwin, a very self centered sixteen-year-old. She's a brat, and she knows it. As the first person narrator of the book, she's looking back on her recent life and able to condemn the choices she makes, so we know right off that she shouldn't be a jerk by the end of the book. Something is going to happen in the meantime that will allow her to see herself for the first time.
As the novel opens, Tamara's father kills himself after losing his fortune in bad investments. Suddenly poor, Tamara and her mother move in with Tamara's Uncle Arthur and Aunt Roseleen. Shortly after their arrival, Tamara begins to see that something is desperately wrong. Her mother goes catatonic, speaking in simple phrases and unable to leave her bedroom. Roseleen says that it's just grief, but Tamara thinks she needs help. The house is increasingly tense, and then Tamara finds a book at the local mobile library that changes everything. It's a journal, except that someone is writing in it. That someone seems to be Tamara from one day ahead. Suddenly able to know the consequences of her actions, Tamara finds herself adapting and changing her future . . . and herself.
This was a truly magical novel and everything I'd hoped it would be.
Considering the age of the narrator, I'd think this book should be shelved in YA, but most bookstores shelf it with Ahern's other fiction for adults. It's possible that they consider it too literary for teens, which is a shame. I think this book is an excellent introduction to the world of good fiction, a way to bridge the gap from books like Hush Hush to fiction written for adults. I recommend it highly....more
I have a love/hate relationship with literary fiction. When it's done well, I often love it, but when it's done poorly it seems to reach too hard to bI have a love/hate relationship with literary fiction. When it's done well, I often love it, but when it's done poorly it seems to reach too hard to be "great," and I despise it.
I loved this book.
As the cover copy tells readers, this is the story of Rose, a child with a gift that's also a curse. When she eats food, she can taste the emotions of the cook that prepares it. At nine, she's unprepared to learn how lost her mother is and how desperately she yearns for love and fulfillment.
Rose's parents are good people, in most ways. Her dad is a lawyer, and he's pretty good at it. He's nothing special, works at a mid-level firm so that he wouldn't have to defend large corporations against the little guy. But he's a good guy. Her mom aches for something. She's empty inside and is constantly seeking guidance and fulfillment from outside. Rose's brother is older, in junior high, and he's a genius, but he's also completely isolated from everyone else, except his friend George.
When Rose's talent develops, George believes her. He and Joseph take her to a local bakery where she tastes the emotions of the cooks. But he can't support her--when he finds himself divided between Joseph and Rose, he chooses Joseph.
Far from being a gift, Rose's extra sense becomes a curse. She can't bear to eat her mother's cooking. In fact, most food is unbearable, unless it's so processed that no humans are involved in cooking it. She lives through the vending machine at her school.
The novel follows Rose through a few pivotal years in her life--when she's nine, 12, 17, and 22. Each year is marked by major upheaval, and Rose tries her best to navigate her way through it all.
This book is by no means perfect, but it is enchanting. It's a haunting exploration of magical realism, and it asks quite a bit of us as readers. We're asked to sympathize with Rose, and ultimately her family as a whole, and that can be a large burden. Rose's problem is so unique--and, in my mind, rather terrifying--that it overwhelms her young mind and her life. Far from being mere sustenance, food becomes the center of Rose's life, and it's only as she tries to rewrite her relationship to it that she can try to manage this gift/curse....more