Unlike some other reviewers, I loved this book and thought the narrator was fine. Shriver's focus in this novel is the nature of relationships itself: how it is that so many of us seek happiness and cannot fully figure out when we have it, how we squander it, how we lose it, and how all of our choices, however small, change us. Who are we attracted to? How important is sex? How do we become different when we're with different kinds of people? Who, then, are we anyway? By examining parallel imaginative lives, this novel allows us to think harder and wiser about our own possibilities, decisions, and realities. Ironically, while the chapters end up shifting between 'black' and white' ??? as a way of dividing up the different lives ??? by the end, the entire conceit shows that while 'black' and 'white' are different, they're not about right or wrong, they're just about different paths. I might also add, that I got so addicted to listening to this novel , I also downloaded the Kindle version for the moments I had time to read even faster than I could listen.
A fast enjoyable listen for someone who enjoys JUSTIFIED ??? and Leonard's particular gifts for dialogue, character, and off-the-wall plotting.
Sometimes I read a long novel I admire but am still not pulled in enough and can't wait for it to end. And then there are those novels that I can't stop listening to but don't want to end. This was most definitely the latter. King's at the top of his game: serious ideas, great writing, great characterization. I very much appreciated his tribute to Jack Finney in his afterward. As someone who was 15 when Kennedy was assassinated, I also appreciated rethinking 20th century American history and consequences. As an English teacher, I have two central reactions: first, I'm ready to write the syllabus for a time-travel fiction elective, and second, I thank, King, for his tribute to teachers.
As there is only one other review written for this book by someone who didn't like it, I'm giving this five stars because I DID love it and it deserves more readers. I suggest that those of you who enjoy emotionally intelligent, historically wise, politically aware and psychologically astute well-crafted fiction (I'm thinking Elizabeth Strout, Anne Tyler, Mary Gordon, Allegra Goodman, Ayelet Waldman, Adam Haslett, Jennifer Haigh, or Jennifer Vanderbas) will find this as moving as I did. All the positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere captured my reactions: I cared about the family, these people, and the way it rendered the experiences of multiple members of an Iowa family who, like all of us, change over time ??? partly because of our own natures, partly because of accident, and partly because of where we fit into the cultural/political zeitgeist. This novel captures the effects of two wars, the destruction of old farming families, the tech boom, and the real estate boom on a number of characters. It's not heavy-handed in its politics, but it doesn't ignore politics either. I could have gone on listening, and felt sad when this novel came to an end. Cassandra Campbell's narration was perfect. Highly recommended!
I would usually reserve 5 stars for something on the order of a Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy masterpiece, but in this case I'm giving Miller five stars to counter the previously deceptive review that told people not to read this book. It's far more deserving than that, and Sue Miller is an author who knows how to read her own work. If you need fast paced narrative this book may not be for you, and if you don't like intelligent, complex older characters who meditate on their lives - including their moral failures and emotional truths - you might prefer something else. But if you care about how people cope with loss, the amoral aspect of art and drama, the nuances and imbalances in relationships, you might agree with me and Michiko Kakutani (who too often trashes books) that this is Miller's best yet. It's certainly in the category of great novels that deals with the aftershocks of 911. It was certainly worth my time.
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