This is a hard one to call ' mostly because it is a well-written work, created with craft and heart and thought. Ms. Quindlen obviously thinks highly of her readers, for she has spent time trying to get it right. I detected neither insincerity nor shallowness. Most of the characters were authentic and alive, I had a good grasp of them, the adults as well as the teenagers.
Nonetheless, after about a hundred pages in, when still nothing much was happening to thrust the book forward - just pretty prose followed by pretty prose describing very mundane things - ' I started to get antsy. I was beginning to dislike the book. And I realized how important it is, not just to write well and truthfully, but to TELL A STORY THAT KEEPS US RIVETED. To do that, you need characters who have a want, a goal, an aim, and they act upon it, skirting obstacles, fighting obstacles, etc. In fact, the plot point that finally turns the story into another direction is not the main character''s doing, but comes from outside, almost like a deus ex machina. So it''s not even the main character, Mary Beth Latham, who moves the story forward. She just floats along, in the first half of the book merrily, in the second half like a zombie. She barely acts. This may be true-to-life, BUT IT DOESN'T MAKE FOR A GOOD STORY. And this so sloooows down the book.
Another thing that bothered me, was that I really didn't know what Quindlen wanted us to come away with. Why did she write this story? Just to remind us that bad things happen to good people? Did she have to be so extreme about it? She - watch out: SPOILER!! - ' kills off three wonderful people with one fell swoop and leaves the wife and mother a frozen, closed off soul. Was that necessary? I wondered why she did it. This may sound callous, but wouldn't one death have been enough? By killing off three she turned her story into MELODRAMA, the stuff of NIGHTMARES and not everyday life, the stuff of BAD TELEVISION and WOMEN''S AFTERNOON TALK SHOWS.
By the end of the book - ' yes, I read it to the last page, testament to Quindlen's writing skills - ' well, by the end, I actually disliked the book fiercely. Why? Because it was heavy-handed. In my eyes: a sin.
Oh, and another thing, it's minor in comparison to the above, but it was irksome: there are many minor characters that come in and out of Mary Beth''s life. As Quindlen does little to characterize these people I kept on getting confused: wait a sec, who''s Nancy? Who''s Kevin? Who''s Ricky? Towards the end this was no longer a problem, but until half-way through the book it was an added distraction.
Therefore, though I wish I didn't have to - ' I have liked three of Quindlen's previous books very well - ' I am giving this book just two stars.
This book deals with the life of an average American family and their three teenage children. After a terrible crime they have to come to terms with their changed reality. This may sound tempting to read, but in fact it's not. The first half of the book is incredibly boring because the author describes in minute detail the trivialities of a suburban life. There's no plot development whatsoever, and the reader is confronted with an awful lot of names of neighbours, friends, children's friends and their parents. It's almost impossible to remember who is who, as all these people have hardly any function apart from filling the pages with meaningless chatter.The second half is slightly better, but here again it's really difficult to sympathize with the protagonist Mary Beth.Her tribulations somehow don't ring true ,and one keeps wondering about her emotions.The author never manages to give a real insight into the characters, and so they remain flat and stereotypical.All in all a wasted chance to write about a harrowing experience.
My first book by Anna Quindlen and would like to read more now. This is a description of an American family and their everyday life and worries, written from from the perspective of the mother. The characters really come to life! I could relate to a lot of it from my own experience with a disturbed son... emotionally not an easy read for me, but satisfying in the end, because there is hope and life goes on.