Mar 05, 07
Those with a cynical view of the world
Read in February, 2007
This book was incredible, and I was inspired to read it after I saw the movie adaptation back in December. I finally got around to it after the Oscars and I'm really glad I did. However, this is one of those rare books where I actually think the movie may be better. I loved that the book fleshed out some of the characters more, and gave a better backdrop to the plot than what you knew simply from watching the film. However, certain differences in plot resulted in a markingly disparate reaction to the general work.
I only have two beefs - the novel changes the characterization and focus of three minor characters, and the ending is immensely dissimilar. One minor character became far too significant in the end, and I appreciate that she was reduced in the film. Ronnie's crimes were far worse in the novel (though you don't find this out until the end), and I felt like Perotta was almost trying to justify the abuse he suffered at the hands of his neighbors. Granted, the endings of the novel and the film are vastly, almost incomparably different, but you can't help but think about the film's resolution when reading the anti-climactic and mildly disappointing version in the novel. Finally, Sarah's husband, Richard, was almost forced into the spotlight.
Other than that, I really don't see a problem with the novel. The narrative voice is superb - helping the reader to sympathize with the characters while keeping him distant enough to still judge their short-comings. And Perrota does a great job, as does the film, of evoking the desperation of the character's lives and the laziness of a summer spent with toddlers.
Overall, the novel and film work excellently together as companion pieces to each other. In my opinion, however, the adapted screenplay focuses the plot of the novel and helps to keep the story on track as it leads toward the shocking and painful conclusion. I highly recommend both to anyone with a love of literature, especially the type that satirizes American culture and showcases "the hunger -- the hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness."