Spoiler alert: In this blog post, I intend to give you major reason not to read this book, and then flip it around to tell you why you should read it anyway. Ready?
I recently listened to this book on audiobook. Though beautifully written, it was, without a doubt, the most sad, depressing, difficult piece of fiction I've ever read.
I'm not going to give you a synopsis, because it's the kind of book where knowing details ahead of time would take away from the experience of reading it. I will say this: it's not a typical piece of fiction. It doesn't follow the normal rules of storytelling: introduction, delving into the story, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a denouement. Instead, the climax takes place smack in the middle of the story, just when the characters are going along easily. It's such a huge event that it couldn't be anything but the climax, whatever came after it. The rest of the book is devoted to falling action. There isn't really a normal resolution. There couldn't be, after what happens to the characters. And yet the heart of the book is found after the climax.
I know that was irritatingly vague, but I really don't want to give anything more away, in case you want to read it. But why would you, when I've already said it was the most sad, depressing, difficult book I've ever read? Here's why:
Anna Quindlen is a genius writer. She creates flawed characters, puts them in impossible situations, and gives them reactions and emotions that are completely true both to themselves and to the needs of the situation. I also love how tantalizing her writing is. She'll drop a little hint of something in the middle of a sentence, something that gives you the seed of an idea. You'll think "Wait, did she just imply that-" and then it's gone, and the story continues, but eventually all those seeds take root, and you understand them by book's end.
Additionally, while it's sad, there's also a lot of hope in the book. And remember that what I find difficult to read may not be what you find difficult to read. I recently turned off an audiobook by Jodi Picoult, whose books I normally love, because it was about a child born with OI, or severely brittle bones, and I couldn't handle thinking about that while I myself am pregnant. Everyone's definition of depressing is different, and everyone finds certain subjects hard to handle at times. Keep in mind, also, that despite the fact that I wanted to cry almost every time I listened to the book, I kept listening. I almost turned it off several times, but I didn't. That's how compelling the story was.
Have I convinced you to read it, or to stay away?