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Only Love Can Break Your Heart
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Group Reads: Post-1980 > Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Final Impressions, March, 2016

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message 1: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
So, what did you think? If you write a review, please post a link to it in this topic.


LeAnne: | 1310 comments The story of the two half-brothers started out very well, but the number of tangents off of that main story line were way too many for me. The writing itself was good, but the random irrelevancy of these tangent sub-plots gradually built to a very bothersome point for me. I will not bother to list the side stories since we have all read them, but here are the other three things that bugged me.

1. The graphicness of the hayloft sex seemed pointless unless the author was trying to boost the story out of middle grade readership and into YA territory. John Irving does young boy/older woman love scenes with some taste, and they ALWAYS influence the boy's later behavior. In this story, I saw no reason for it to be tossed in. Look, I am no prude - the nasty sex in Feast of Snakes made a bunch of people close the book and chuck it across the room. But as foul as it was, it was meaningful - it showed the desolation of the main character. I stayed with it.

2. Drawing the drama teacher as stereotypically gay man really bothered me. The fact that the teacher chose a play which explained why the main character could only achieve an erection while in the presence of horses was far fetched and incredibly tacky. Not only was the teacher portrayed as flamingly gay and chose a perverted high school play (yeah, as if the PTA would approve of that), he also had the teenaged boys wear LEATHER PANTS with bare chests on stage. Really? I have loved ones who are homosexual, and this ticked me off. They are not perverts, for God's sake!

3. Lastly, I realize that the title of the book is a song title by Neil Young. Supposedly the author was trying to give us a sense of time and nostalgia with the songs. Had one of the characters been a musician or constantly listening to WKYC late at night, something like that, the songs would have been okay. But sticking in that many song titles in seemed like a marketing gimmick - ooooh, I remember that one! - and one of my pet peeves with authors is feeling as if they are trying to manipulate me. Had there been a helluva lot of Marlboro man commercials on the TV, I could've bought the pop culture reference.

I really didn't care for this. So sorry!


message 3: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1997 comments Mod
LeAnne
what were your thoughts on the murder? Seemed late in the book for such a horrific murder to take place and how that part of the plot was concluded. I liked the book but thought author did throw a lot of different ideas into the book. I did like how the old man never would die even when everyone wanted him to. I know he died in the end but it seemed to take forever!


LeAnne: | 1310 comments It seemed like the author thought that the returning brother needed some other cross to bear, and that's why the murder was inserted.

Actually, when he took off in the first place, it took me a bit to understand that he actually contemplated leaving the little brother alone in the woods as punishment to their father for skipping the drunken mother's funeral. But he did not abandon him, so why run away??

When he finally came home, I suppose the author felt something had to happen. ?? Personally, I would have had Leigh go ahead and marry her unattractive fiancée, have a baby with him but also an emergency hysterectomy. Paul (was that his name?) would come home to find that he lost the girl, he has lost his chance to steal her back and have another child, and though she doesn't really love the new husband, her child ties her to him. The whole theme of family would have come full circle.

As for the murderer herself, I never entirely understood why she was so opposed to Leigh marrying the unattractive brother.


message 5: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1997 comments Mod
So we have:
Young wife marries old man
Underage boy has sex with older woman
Cult following
Child abuse sexually
Forced abortion
Murder and it was demonic leanings (pentagram?)
Depression
Drugs
Homosexuality
Dementia
Racial issues
Prayer meetings/clairvoyant
What subject did the author not mention?
Have I missed anything? Seems like a lot for one book.
Again, 3 star rating. Not bad but tooooo much stuff!


Angela M This is not a perfect novel , but I definitely liked it enough to give it 4 stars . My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 7: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1997 comments Mod
Do you all think this falls in YA genre? I never thought that but, Angela, I saw someone mentioned that in your review.


Angela M Laura , I didn't think of this as YA even though narrated by Rocky at 8 and then as a teenager. Just didn't have a YA feel to it . I think Jen thought it sounded like YA but I don't believe it's been categorized as one .


message 9: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1997 comments Mod
Agree, I never got that YA feel either. I usually decide if it's YA if it's appropriate for YA audience. Not sure that's accurate but that's how I decide.


LeAnne: | 1310 comments Angela M wrote: "Laura , I didn't think of this as YA even though narrated by Rocky at 8 and then as a teenager. Just didn't have a YA feel to it . I think Jen thought it sounded like YA but I don't believe it's be..."

I'm with Jen on the YA. The only heads I was able to get inside were the kids, and specifically describing the pornographic graffiti seemed like something that would titillate a YA audience. Ditto for the hayloft activities. Mentioning these two things without tons of detail would have had merit, but it ended up reading sophomoric to me in these spots.


LeAnne: | 1310 comments Laura wrote: "So we have:
Young wife marries old man
Underage boy has sex with older woman
Cult following
Child abuse sexually
Forced abortion
Murder and it was demonic leanings (pentagram?)
Depression
Drugs
Hom..."


Um, you forgot the high school play in which an adult male cannot achieve an erection unless he is in the presence of horses. Neeeeeiiiiigh, baby! ;)


Camie | 101 comments If you were a teenager in the 1970's without cell phones, PC's and 700 TV channels , most likely you spent countless hours listening to music that would later be the soundtrack of your life. If you don't automatically know from the title that you will be hearing about Neil Young's music you probably won't like this book. I agree Ed Tarkington could have reigned it in a little on the amount of " subjects" he tried to cover here, but there's little doubt the guy can turn a phrase. A great choice this month if for nothing but discussion value. It's a quick easy read and no subject is discussed very deeply as it is told by an 8 year old. P S somewhere in my basement I've still got all of that old vinyl ;-) !
I'm always surprised at concerts to see the varied crowd, young and old, but would most of the YA reading audience know Neil Young, I doubt it .


message 13: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
I finished it today and, while the plot was a bit haphazard and overly busy, I found Tarkington's storytelling very good. My impression was that while most novelists tell stories, he tells life. Life, after all, is often haphazard and overly busy.

My review is here.


Angela M "He tells life" - I like that!


Diane S ☔ It kind of reminded me of my youth in Chicago, all the different types of families and the things my friends went through. So you are right Tom, he does tell life.


message 16: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (last edited Mar 26, 2016 01:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
LeAnne,
Please don’t think I’m picking on you but your post so aptly ticks off all of the key problems that people have with the book that I feel it best to respond to your post and give my response to each point in turn.

LeAnne wrote: " The writing itself was good, but the random irrelevancy of these tangent sub-plots gradually built to a very bothersome point for me. "

I agree that the plot lacks direction but I think that was part of why it appealed to me. Most novels are neat. They have little or no extraneous material. Every scene directs the reader onward to the climax. But real life isn’t like that. It’s often messy, convoluted and chock full of events that seem to do little to give meaning to that life. But whether we see it or not, everything that happens to us serves to propel us relentlessly to where we are today. That’s the point he was trying to make in the last paragraph when he said “if even a second of my life before them had been different, my beautiful girls might not exist – or else they would be some other people.” With this sentence he nails one of the great truths I’ve come to accept. If not for many of things that I have done, good and bad, I would never have come to be where I am today which means, as Paul said, that I should put all my regrets behind me.

LeAnne wrote: " The graphicness of the hayloft sex seemed pointless ..."

I don’t see their sexual relationship as pointless. The relationship itself ties many of the facets of the story together and also propels Rocky’s maturity forward dramatically. I don’t meant to suggest that getting laid turned him into a man but in the process he learned several lessons about what life and peope are like that helped him to get to a level of maturity that helped him face the challenges that he encountered later in the book.

The graphic nature of the sex told me a lot about Patricia. No pun intended but she demonstrated clearly her skill at manipulation. That she would even engage in it with someone as young as Rocky said a lot about her mental stability.

LeAnne wrote: "Not only was the teacher portrayed as flamingly gay and chose a perverted high school play (yeah, as if the PTA would approve of that), he also had the teenaged boys wear LEATHER PANTS with bare chests on stage..."

I suppose that there is little point in saying that the horses wore ‘tight black spandex’, not LEATHER PANTS with bare chests. And I do agree that in a world where parents complain about schools teaching To Kill a Mockingbird it is unlikely that Equus could be staged in a backwater Virginia public high school, but ‘perverted’? I suppose that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. It has been a long time since I have seen the movie but I recall that it was a powerfully moving condemnation of the twisted psychological effects of religious fundamentalism.

The theater production was not the first time in the story that I thought of Equus. It popped into my mind during the scenes in the hayloft and I doubt that this connection was accidental. Wasn’t it the flamboyantly gay (So what?) theater director who said ‘All life is performance and the performance is life’? More to the point though is that this play drives home the point more powerfully than most the idea that what we become is the product of the materials that go into our creation.

LeAnne wrote: " Had one of the characters been a musician or constantly listening to WKYC late at night, something like that, the songs would have been okay. But sticking in that many song titles in seemed like a marketing gimmick..."

I saw the music as a connection between Paul and Rocky and the title song as another part of the basic theme of the book. Love is messy and haphazard but do we really want to live without it? Maybe it isn’t an original theme but it bears remembering. C.S. Lewis touched addressed it in The Four Loves, saying:
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of you selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Ultimately, one of the things I liked most about this book was that the love that I saw in it wasn’t the love of Romeo and Juliet but the love that I have experienced throughout much of my life; the love of caring for a parent with dementia and even the love one has for a brother who is a pain in the ass.


Diane S ☔ Plus I think the songs tied it firmly to time and place, also was the connection between he and his brother. I know when I hear songs from the past they being back memories, many times I can remember exactly what I was doing and whom I was with the first time I heard the song.


message 18: by Doug H (new)

Doug H Tom wrote: "LeAnne,
Please don’t think I’m picking on you but your post so aptly ticks off all of the key problems that people have with the book that I feel it best to respond to your post and give my respons..."


Tom, I understand that you're not picking on anyone here, but a line-by-line picking apart of another members' personal reaction to a read feels more like a political debate than discussion to me.


message 19: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
Doug wrote: "Tom, I understand that you're not picking on anyone here, but a line-by-line picking apart of another members' personal reaction to a read feels more like a political debate than discussion to me. "

Sorry. There's way too much of that going on these days.


Camie | 101 comments Looks like it's going to be unpopular to discuss this months read. I find that unfortunate. I admit the book was a bit overcrowded with subject matter but in my mind that would have made it perfect for the usual OTSLT discussion and repartee.


message 21: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
Camie wrote: "Looks like it's going to be unpopular to discuss this months read. I find that unfortunate. I admit the book was a bit overcrowded with subject matter but in my mind that would have made it perfect..."

I agree.


LeAnne: | 1310 comments Doug? Thank you!


message 23: by Doug H (new)

Doug H Sure, okay... Are you drinking? ;)


Thing Two (thingtwo) | 82 comments I happened to go to college in Lynchburg Virginia (home to then Liberty Baptist College and Jerry Falwell) in the mid-80s. Just after I left there was a horrific double murder in town of a wealthy middle-aged couple. If you google the details, they are practically word-for-word repeated in this book: An early suspect was the daughter of a local judge; The investigators' headquarters were staged on the public high school's athletic building; even the odd thing the daughter says that alerts her former boy-toy that she's guilty (I'm the devil, you're the sacrificial lamb) is repeated.

I was alert to the fact that the author grew up in Lynchburg. The town's name was changed, but the rest is very recognizable (my college lent its name to the protagonist's two high schools—Randolph and Macon). It makes me wonder if the details unrelated to the actual murder are also based on true stories—leading credence to the "life is messy" statement above.

There's an interesting New Yorker article on the actual events from 2015. Google Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering for more.


message 25: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (last edited May 11, 2016 08:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
Thing Two wrote: "There's an interesting New Yorker article on the actual events from 2015. Google Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering for more."

Here it is: Blood Ties


message 26: by Dawn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) | 252 comments Hey Y'all - I am so late adding this in the book conversation. If I did not add it in already before . I am finding books I have read , I have not reviewed online ! Time is flying this year . One thing I did know was important to EdTarkington was music ! He is friends with singer / songwriter Will Hogue and when I met him at the book signing everyone who bought the book was given a vinyl of three songs that Hogue wrote especially for the book and was including on his new album ! The songs are quite good . He has music connections in Nashville and besides writing I think he plays and may write songs.

I do know too in my teens and still because of growing up with music in those great years , music means the world to me and there is not a time or memory that a song does not relate or match that feeling. Whenever I talk to a classmate or describe something we all find ourselves mentioning an old 70's - 80's song ! As a little girl I grew up with the influence of 50 's - 60's even though I was not born because my parents and aunts and uncles were big music influences in my tastes! When you wanted to listen to music you listened to what was around . Most was old .

The Cultish phase was when I was a little girl but I secretly found Helter Skelter in my Uncle's books and I read that sucker when I was about 9 . Scared me pretty bad but they had them on TV too . We watched the news every evening as a family . It was a thing my parents expected of us to know what was going on in the world and as questions .

It was a first novel that had some influences from somewhere dark . He had already been working on the second so maybe it will be better. First novels are always a bit different- you love them or don't . Second chances are always nice too.

Dawn


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