Brooklyn, NY USA | Member Since 2014
I loved "Good in Bed," and I could not wait for the sequel. While it was fun to find out what happened to Cannie and Joy, "Certain Girls" was a disappointment. This new book was not nearly as engaging and the plot did not move as smoothly, nor was it particularly original.
4.5 rounded up to 5. The handsomely written at times cerebral yet emotionally intense narrative is told in reverse chronological order with flashbacks that anticipate events ahead or behind depending on one's temporal perspective by Sean Phillips, a reclusive young adult first person narrator whose face is disfigured by a youthful mishap and who is the author of a text based role-playing game whose instructions for each move or turn he mails to paying subscribers in an age before personal computers. When a pair of subscribers take the fantasy game literally one of them dies and Sean is sued. Gaming becomes a metaphor for free will vs. fate in a work of fiction that is also a meditation on depression, despair, and self-destructive impulses. Suicide survivors might want to skip this one. Well narrated by the author.
I cannot believe this happened in America. The narration is a little weak and the story could be more fluid. However, this is a story that needed to be told and is so amazing that these flaws are almost forgotton.
In reality, I would probably deduct one half a star for a little bit of poor editing in the book and for the didactic reflections at the end of many chapters. But, I really did enjoy the book. The story was amazing, although it is not clear where is the line between fiction and the life story of the author. I enjoyed learning about a time and place I knew nothing about and the narration was outstanding. This book has sold over 3 million copies world wide, but has not received much attention in the US. There is even a movie version out there. I also liked the way the book was really several different stories and settings as the protagonist's life changed as he matured.
I am a big fan of Paul Auster and this is one of his best books. It is not quite as dark as some of his other novels and the story is revealed in an intriguing manner. Unlike most novelist, Auster narrates his own book and I really enjoy his deep voice. (In fact after listening to Brooklyn Follies, I read some other books of his and I could hear his voice telling me the story.)
The characters are complex and without giving away the ending, I will say that it ties up enough of the story without seeming to be contrived. I highly recommend this engaging book.
Although this book does follow the text of the book of Esther and tries to answer some missing questions, it does not appear that the authors did much research in the Jewish commentaries of the book or on the observance of Purim. I particularly disliked the continued references to the sign of the twisted cross, an obvious attempt to connect Haman with the Nazis. I also disliked calling the capital Susa instead of Susan and the mispronunciation of Vashti's name.
However, there was at least one midrash (about Haman's daughter) that was included and I did like the adding of the historical context. It was a little weird to hear about Esther and Xerxes instead of Esther and Ahasuerus, but I understand that. I also found it interesting the development of characters that are only briefly mentioned in the Megillah. (But again, the midrash that one of the characters was really Haman is ignored.)
I had hoped that this book would be appropriate for our synagogue book group, but I cannot recommend it. But it has motivated me to learn more about traditional midrashim about Esther.
Also, the comparison to "The Red Tent" falls very short because of the book's perspective.
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