I’m not big on books that end up being what I’ll call “book club books” – not necessarily Oprah’s specifically, though hers certainly does come to mind. I mean, there are always exceptions: Franzen’s new book, for example, could be on anyone’s book club list and I’d still want to read it. There’s just something about book club books that have a particular connotation of being… how do I put this… literature for people who don’t really read.
However, I take individual recommendations very highly. Especially from people a) who know my taste inside and out and b) whose taste I find (mostly) impeccable. There are only about fifteen people in the world who I will no-questions take recommendations from – and this book came from one of those individuals. Sarah recommended this book to me about a month and a half ago and I bought it right away… but then my literary demands went elsewhere and then Halloween came by and suddenly it was November and I hadn’t read this yet. So, even as the Biblioracle was telling me my next-to-read, I was preparing my next-next as this.
I’m happy to report that Sarah didn’t lead me astray. This is a beautiful book – incredibly well-detailed and described, full of fascinating characters (human and otherwise), and balances what could be a trite and cloying plot with gritty realities.
The beginning, a prologue of sorts, sets you up for a twist later that comes slightly unexpectedly and slightly undeservedly. I say undeservedly because, as with a bad carnival act, you feel as though you were lied to – it wasn’t slight of hand, it was outright deception. There is a fine line there and this book really toed it. I liked the twist but I still found it to be a bit… well… cheap. But that was a minor quibble with an otherwise terrific story.
I guess, thinking about it a little further, some of the ‘set pieces’ felt a little like “I”m writing a Depression novel… so I have to have a speakeasy scene! and a hobo jungle scene!” – the speakeasy especially. I mean, it sets up the great love story conflict but I’d’ve liked to stay in that scene a little longer. It was a little too perfunctory.
Still, despite these minor quibbles, the story was excellent. It was really a good story and I loved Rosie – and Marlena, really. And I liked the older Jacob story in general. I found those interludes really entertaining and the narrative voice was really strong.
Rating: 5 out of 5. I wish I had more to say about this book – it really deserves a longer review – but I’ll simply say I found it delightful. It was wonder-ful. Like, full of wonder. Get it? Thanks, Sarah!