I kept wanting to like this book, but in attempting to do so much, it failed to move me. I found the love stories unconvincing and most of the characters as superficial as they time in which they lived (maybe that was the point?) I was particularly disappointed with the narrator. Her women were OK, but I cringed whenever she did men. They all had gnarled voices (it was impossible to imagine any of them as romantic figures) and her "Jewish" accents were hackneyed and embarrassing.
I would not consider another book from either the author nor the narrator. Based on the NYT review, I gave this book a fair try, but the plot is so dumb and the characters are so absolutely unbelievable, that I just couldn't go on. It is really hard for me to imagine that anyone would have published such a ridiculous book.
The characters are ridiculous! All of them, from the fifteen-year-old to the late-twenties writer to the sixty-something author -- from the pastor-father to the chief of police -- sound like the same inarticulate teenager. How many times can an author expect his characters to say, "I love him/her SO much" without the readers gagging.
Are we just getting spoiled by the fact that so many readers now are such masters of dialog and character? Craven makes every character in this book -- young and old, male and female, educated and ignorant -- sound exactly the same -- like a slightly whiny 18-year old.
I think this is a weak book from beginning to end. Jenny's mother, the original owner of the cafe is particularly annoying for her implausible cruelty toward her husband and her absolute stupidity about her daughter. Seriously, who would invite friends to a big party to celebrate a daughter's relationship to someone which whom she's had a single date. You just couldn't trust anyone in this book -- they were all entirely nonsensical.
I had hoped for a "wry' (that's what the NYT reviewer said) light mystery to get me through some long days in the garden. I gave this a real try, but if a high school senior had turned this into me in a writing class, I'd have given it a C. And I'd have given the narrator an F.
This is a gorgeous, richly conceived book. All the characters are interesting and "true" in their way, but the women are especially original and wonderful. Baxter has a wonderful imagination and is a careful observer of real people in real situations, and he makes them (most of them) people you would like to know. Chloe is absolutely unique and charming. Curiously, the female narrator, Amanda Karr (Carr?) is not credited on this website. She is perhaps the best narrator I have heard, bringing her characters absolutely to life, each one different and real. If I could find her on the website, I would select other books she's narrated just to hear her read.
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