Every time I see the cover of A Little Life, I feel queasy. It’s been about a year since I read it and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I don’t know how a book managed to be so beautiful and so at the same time, but here we are. It’s a seriously flawed book but I felt like the author had a real love for her characters, which I always appreciate. And her characters are great! It won me over about halfway through but if I could edit it there’s a lot I would have cut out. People say this is overlong, overwritten, overly dramatic, and they’re not wrong. I just liked it anyway.
A Man Called Ove is another mixed bag for me. Initially I had much less ambivalence about this one; I really loved it, and sobbed like a baby at the end. But I have this nagging feeling that it’s only a great book if you don’t look at it too closely. It’s pretty formulaic and schmaltzy. The whole thing can be summed up as “grumpy old man has big heart.” (Weirdly, Ove is only 59 but written like a much older man.) There is a neat little bit where Ove’s falling out with a friend is chronicled by what kind of cars they bought over the years. At first it seems irrelevant but later you see how their cars reflect their differing life paths. It was a cool device, and as the owner of a minivan, I sure do get how your vehicle can represent you. I still love this one, but I doubt I’ll read more from this author. He might be a one trick pony but it was a pretty good trick.
My Sunshine Away is the book that I liked the least, and recommend the most. I dislike this book so much that I end up having a grudging respect for it. I forget a lot of books that I really liked but I won’t soon forget this maddening little book. The writing is very good, and the story is compelling enough, but MAN does this one get under my skin. This is a coming of age story about a boy who had a crush on a girl, and then the girl was assaulted, and then the rest of the book is about how this girl’s rape made this boy feel. And that just infuriates me. My initial takeaway here was that it felt like this guy read all the #yesallwomen tweets and wanted a pat on the back for all he’d learned. So, great, good for you, you learned rape is bad. But you don’t get a medal for your bare minimum level of understanding. Still, this is one I tend to recommend pretty often, and I think it’s a great book club choice. Tl;dr- read this book that I hate.