It starts off with a thinly veiled parody of scientology, but you will never anticipate the plot twists Lehane has in store for you. Lehane is a gifted writer who just happens to write mystery/thrillers. I judge my audible purchases by the ones that force me to take detours from my driving destination in order to listen a bit more. Or force me to stay on the treadmill a few minutes longer. This one did that. Repeatedly. Davis does an excellent job with the narration. Highly recommended.
Truly "A Great American Novel." The story itself is simple but the narrative complexity is extraordinary. Search around for some critical interpretations and you will read coherent takes that are absolutely contradictory. Conservative backlash vs. the militant 60s ethos? Or an indictment of the American Dream itself? Have at it! Here's what Roth does: He's the author, of course. But the "author" in the narrative is -- again -- his alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman. Zuckerman is writing about "Swede" Levov, but he's not telling Levov's actual story because he failed to get it during a chance, ultimately superficial encounter. He's telling his fictionalized version of it, cobbled together with very little research and a conscious cutting out of the actual facts of Levov's "real" later life. He then leaves his ending open to make the very point that hangs over the text: Reliable narration, how we get people "wrong," how knowing people is impossible, how trying to control or even understand one's life is often impossible.
How has this man not won the Nobel Prize?
This is a powerful, meaningful book by an author seemingly with no literary aspirations beyond being heard on Vietnam, a war he served in with distinction. It took him over 30 years to finish and find a publisher. This book has flesh, blood and soul. It will enrapture you , enrage you and engage you long after you put it down, either during or after reading.
One of the things I tend to do after I enjoy a book is read the bad reviews -- 1 star, etc -- on Amazon. Often, it's for comedic purposes -- someone saying Dickens is boring and too long or Cormac McCarthy is depressing or someone saying they figured out "Gone Girl" 10 pages in. You know: Ha Ha.
The absurdity of the bad reviews here actually bothered me. Hey, I get it that not everyone likes stories that aren't uplifting. Or some folks don't like cussing. Or some are so suffused with their politics -- 'MERICA IS ALWAYS AWESOME! -- that they can't enjoy this book, just as they can't be educated on science, history and reality.
I get it. It's just that there is so much passionate seriousness here that you'd wish the bumpkins could be self-aware enough to sit this one out.
My previous "favorite" - truly a trite term - Vietnam novel was "Going After Cacciato," but this one, a straightforward Point A to Point B narrative, completely engaged me with a diverse group of men trying to negotiate and survive circumstances that were equally horrific and physically taxing as socially complex.
It's not an anti-Marine or anti-America or even an anti-war novel. It does become an anti-Vietnam War novel if you decide to extrapolate on the experiences Mellas and his fellow combatants, and that's not an unreasonable thing to do.
But what this book does is airlift you into an exotic and, yes, horrifying experience, thereby expanding your range of understanding. When you finish the book, you will be changed by the knowledge.
And, by the way, Bronson Pinchot's sober, authoritative and pitch-perfect narration is outstanding... if you know who he's played as an actor, that will bring a smile to your fact.
This book will appeal to three sorts of people: 1. People who are married; 2. People who like good writing; 3. People who like twisting plots they don't see coming.
Know what this book did to me? It had me thinking about it when I was doing other things. And not just the old looking for holes in the mystery.
Lots of folks love this book but don't like the ending. I actually think the ending is incredibly strong, perfect for the sort of wild ride the book takes you on.
And there's just a whiff of suggestion we might hear from these characters again.
Further, I read Flynn's first two books and did this one on audio. I think the audio experience here is superior to reading the book, and I'd rarely say that. The male and female narrators do a nice job. Their voices add to the story.
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