Sally's Reviews > The Feast of Love

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
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's review
Jan 15, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: library-book, beautiful
Read in February, 2009

Baxter's novel unfolds like an origami swan. The entire concept is beautiful and intricate. Upon first inspection it wows. How complex! Amazing! What an original narrative, layering individual perspectives within, among, alongside one overarching meta-narrative. The whole novel is deeply hyper-conscious of its own creation from page one.

The characters, residents of the same Michinan town are all comfortably familiar, sketched as someone recognizable. Baxter illuminates Ann Arbor's sedate Midwesterness, the residents are familiar with one another before their intermingling.

The book reads as a series of character portraits, told in the first person. The individuals appear at first resistant, and then yielding participants in the story. Each a work of art not unlike the basemented art of our "protagonist" Bradley. A solitary man, the owner of a mall coffee shop, Bradley's lovers describe him as both downtrodden and yet optimistic. One particularly mean lover, Diana, takes to calling him "toad" before dismissing him altogether after 2 months of marriage. We follow all of the people Bradley encounters, in a series of almost-interviews these people tell Bradley their story in first-hand accounts. At times initially unwilling participants in his novel, the characters are unrealistically verbose in describing minutiae of their daily existence to this man. We hear from his former and future lovers, past lovers' future partners, his employees and their lovers, his next door neighbors' relationship.

Each one of these stories in inextricably linked to the others - yet reads as its own narrative. What does this tell the reader about Baxter's view of the world? I can't help but imagine the place he imagines he holds - the as silent observer - noticing more about those around them than they know he does.

When the plot begins jettisoning forward and back through time I grow weary. Why do I honestly care about Bradley the coffee shop owner and his dog Bradley? What about his ill-starred home and overly-friendly workplace draw such curious characters into his life? Is anyone really that interesting when you get down to the nitty-gritty of their daily existence?

Baxter has 42 more pages to show me. I hope he delivers.

Update: I have only one chapter left and I'm a little bit afraid to pick it up one last time. I don't want the story to conclude! Baxter does reveal the connections between all the threads. Like a masterwork of macrame.
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Reading Progress

02/03/2009 page 50
15.63% "Each chapter is a beautiful novella about love. *SIGH* The perfect Valentines book."
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony How's this compare to The Soul Thief?

Sally So far so good. The chapters are piling up like a house of cards; I'm more than a little bit mesmerized.

message 3: by PJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

PJ I so agree with you about not wanting to finish, but I did and it was perfect. Your masterwork of macramé description was spot on.

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