Hirondelle's Reviews > The Hole We're In

The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin
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's review
Sep 27, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: planning-to-read-2011-no-excuses
Read from May 19 to 21, 2011

It took me ages, since release (I pre-ordered it)till now to read this. And so it seems the world ends today May 21st, 2011 (later in the day I guess, and maybe it is a time zone thing). Good timing to be reading a book about fundamentalist Adventist Christians. Solipsism FTW.

The reason it took me those ages to read this might be because frankly, the blurb and reviews make it sound like a downer. I need to be in the right mood to want to tackle potentially devastating novels, AND often novels about the despair of human condition seem to try too hard, are too obviously manipulative for me to actually like it. I should have trusted Ms Zevin a more. It is very well written, moving, and I could relate to the characters (though a warning, they are all quite flawed and non heroic. But I usually do not have a problem reading about unlikable characters). It is not claustrophobic, something I was unconsciously expecting somehow. And hey, Britney Spears as a literary theme, not something I expected, but it works. (Who would´ve thought it?) And Tristram Shandy and how if you are not careful, fate (or social-cultural-religious constricts) really has it in for you.

But I got, as always issues. First, this book has an interesting structure, in 4 parts:
- a year in the life of the Pomeroy family, a chapter for each month. Circa 1995. Which perhaps could almost be read as a standalone novella.
- some 5 or 6 years after that, a few weeks of Patsy´s life.
- some 5 or 6 after that, a day in the life of this family.
- some 10 years a roadtrip Patsy takes. This is obviously set in the future, and there is a speculative element in that a certain political event has taken place (view spoiler).

The problem with this structure is that characters do not get the same ammount of time or attention. It feels unbalanced. We have a lot of Patsy, but not consistently enough that we could say, or more importantly feel, that she is the main character (she is not on part 3), a lot of Georgia the mother and Roger the father, a little bit of Helen, almost nothing of Vinnie ( Victor on some goodreads reviews, I wish I knew why). Too many things are not resolved or only alluded in throw away lines. The final part was almost off-tone with the rest of the book, the speculative element making it unreal, almost manipulative. And nitpicking some details like (view spoiler).

And then there is that, after finishing and thinking about this book for a while (a good sign regarding the quality of the book), does fate (in the form of education and parenting, and gosh, education is indeed another theme here) really have it in for middle class americans, who put a lot of faith in Credit and their Church? (Yes, says the book). Me, I do not know.

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Reading Progress

05/19/2011 page 30
10.0% "Giving this a try. I had been avoiding this since its release, because of the downer potential, but there are worse things than downers - namely bad writing. As expected, the writing is lovely. And clear. Clear is underrated."
05/20/2011 page 130
45.0% "This is very american in focus, about americans of a specific middle class, fundamentalist christian kind ( a kind of which I have read little). But reading this book I can only think of fado músic or some portuguese poets - erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente. It is sad, but it is beautiful as well."

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