There were some good points. But, I felt like I had walked onto a used car lot with an over zealous salesman whose voice was like a wood wrasp put to work industriously on my central nervous system.
First, the narrator was completely wrong for this. Susan's voice made me cringe every time I heard it. Hawk's voice, forget about it. This sequel compared to Early Autumn, was very weak. It seemed like an experiment by Parker. Overblown description was cringe-worthy too. I liked Paul better when he was ten years younger, and had a real reason to act pathetic. All he did here was whine like a baby about how it hurt, and after Spencer had trained him. I didn't feel it the pain. The pieces didn't add up and it seemed mellow dramatic. The real gift Parker had generally, was how his books didn't seem mellow dramatic when they could easily have, or should have in the hands of another writer. This book showed how Parker was balanced on the razor's for most of his books, and pulled off regularly. This one made me appreciate the fine craft in his other works, and his ear tuned like a master French Horn player.
Clearly, Sparks is a master at manipulating the emotions of the reader. He doesn't bring the rest of his writing up to that level, but lowers it down to the level of a Saturday morning cartoon for teenagers.
Alex is perfect, far too perfect, and not a hint of a flaw. Then there is Kevin. Okay, he is an obsessive nut-ball, fine, but what motivates his villainy. He is a major character and we almost know nothing on that score. There is no significant backstory to explain why he is a lunatic-wife beater. Kevin is as flawed as Alex is perfect. That does not satisfy. Kevin is like the old-time mustache-twirling villain with a black hat. He is just pure wicked for no particular reason. One or two pages would have been plenty for the reason he is cracked.
So why does Katie take it for so long from Kevin? She really has two different personalities that seem disconnected, and a little too convenient for the plot. Her backstory did not justify her allowing herself to be victimized to that extent.
The bottom line is that Sparks is so good at building suspense, fights, chase scenes and tugging at the heart strings that he just phones in the rest. Here is a master writer delivering up melodrama. I felt insulted, by his effort.
And, was the relentless repetition really necessary? Did he really have to repeat "gray-haired" about twenty-five times? What about the fifteen times about the "bad neighbors?" How about the seventeen or so times "the Bible says..." maybe all the mind-numbing repetition replaced Kevin's backstory? It seemed lame to me.
Sparks knows what he can get away with using his tricks to move the emotions, but he is letting a world-class talent wither by producing this kind of cartoon. I think he is laughing a little at the reader too, and wondering why we take it.
I’ve read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene lately, and Sparks certainly has the ability to write at this level, but I suppose he is afraid to try. It’s such a shame.
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