Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Salon

Now, in an effort not to be too terribly irresponsible (though I have copped to that trait, fully), I am hereby posting my first Sunday Salon review, a mere one day late. And might I say, yesterday was not a good day for doing much of anything. I failed to take my sleeping pill Saturday night and therefore woke after four hours of sleep, at five a.m. I decided to get up, rather than wait it out (because it usually takes two and a half hours to wait it out), and worked on my screenplay. I actually finished this draft, through to the end, although the end still needs to be fixed. (Just a dangling plot thread that I have to figure out how to weave in. I suspect I'm close.) And then it was ten a.m. and I was at that point where I knew, if I went back to bed, I would actually sleep for several hours. But it was also time to get ready for church. It wasn't an automatic decision, sadly, but I did decide to go to church. Then I got home at 3 p.m. and went straight to bed. I went to a farewell party for a friend at 6 p.m., and normally I would stay for a long time but I was exhausted. Even though I had brought gym clothes with me, I did not go to the gym; I went home and worked on my TiVo list. I wanted to do my Sunday Salon review then, but my roommate was home and on her computer, which has a much higher-speed connection than mine. (I don't bother upgrading because I have a great high-speed connection at work; also, having dial-up is great when I'm writing; I have no desire to flip over to the internet to surf. Instead I get up and wander around and eat.)

So anyway. Here is my Sunday/Monday Salon review for:


A.M. Homes is an author I have only recently discovered. I had heard of her for years, because she's an alumna/sometimes teacher of my undergrad writing program. I remember when this book came out, and the fact that it got great reviews. I read her latest novel, THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, and loved it. So, on my way to Virginia to visit the nephew, I decided to pick up another.


I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, there is a lot of dark comedy. I do like dark comedy--I can even veer toward twisted--but I had a hard time getting on board with this. I absolutely hated the two main characters, Paul and Elaine. They are self-involved in the worst way; they are mean; they are hateful. Was their marriage ever a good one? Have they always been such lousy schmucks? No idea. But they are now. The book begins when, almost on a whim, they try to burn their house down with their outdoor grill. Funny: they can't even do that. They see a flame snaking up the outside wall of the house and gather their two boys into the car and go for a long dinner, effectively leaving others to clean up the mess.

In a way, there's a long thread of cleaning up messes, and leaving others to do it for you. Their house, while not burned down, is rendered uninhabitable by the fire. They go stay with a neighbor couple, who take care of them (in all sorts of *interesting* ways). They farm their children out to two other families, and those families take care of the children in even *more* interesting ways, one leading to the novel's devastating conclusion. Their marriage, their lives, their foundations are all falling down around their ears, and rather than fixing anything, Paul and Elaine embrace that and drive if all farther down.

I hated Paul and Elaine. And since they are the core of this book, I have to say, I hated the book. And yet...

It is brilliant.

I mentioned the devastating conclusion earlier. In a way, it comes out of left field. And in a way, we've seen hints of it coming all along. No one deserves this kind of ending, but if anyone comes close to it, Paul and Elaine do. And Elaine's final words, the last line of the book, sum it all up in every possible way.

If you're easily offended, don't read this book. If you like dark humor, there's plenty to enjoy. If you don't mind being unsettled, and perhaps having extreme negative feelings for characters, check it out.

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