Wednesday, June 10, 2009
How to be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward
Quick Disclaimer - I have no idea why there is a wrestling panda. I just couldn't resist posting the image, and couldn't think of any books I plan to read for which it would be appropriate.
Let me make a confession: I'm scared of new books - by new, I mean date of publishing, no date of purchase. Particularly fiction. I haven't had good experiences, and the things that new fiction speak to in the human condition seems to, usually, be things that I am all too familiar with already, and need no speaking to. I read this book largely by accident. Ms Ward, for whatever reason, started following me on Twitter, and I mentioned it, then Amanda was at the thrift store and this book was on sale. So it was that I came to read it. And I have to admit, I really wasn't looking forward to it - I was scared of what it might be about. Cause, it could have been so bad.
Only it wasn't!
How to be Lost is the story of Caroline and her family. Caroline's youngest sister disappeared when Caroline was still young, and this disappearance has imprinted her family ever since. There's a lot to it, and I don't want to give it away - in the tradition of new fiction I've read, the surprising turns are part of what's best about the book - but suffice to say that there's a lot of plot going on.
But who cares! Plot, plot, plot, Dan Brown can write a good plot. I don't like him. And plenty of the books I like have little to nothing to do with plot (*cough* Cranford *cough-cough*). So, plot, it was good, it helped me keep moving. If you like plots, you'll like this book, it has a really good one.
What really did it for me was the characters. I didn't actually think it would work out for me, the first part of the book, to be honest. The characters drink a lot, and for a long time seem like nothing but types - the cheery drunken debutante childish mom, the good sister, the rebel drunken sister, etc. Then, it all started to change. The people were there, and I started to really empathize with them - not in that, force-yourself-to-empathize sort of way that you do when you read a book that you are trying to enjoy, but in that way you love somebody that you've just met, because they accidentally showed you something real about them that they meant to keep to themselves. For the rest of the book (starting at just about where Caroline goes on a winter picnic with Anthony), I couldn't put the book down.
The best was the end, though. The end is at once everything one expects would happen (spoiler - yes, the lost sister turns up) and at the same time, completely, utterly unexpected. The book is modern, in the sense that it feels like a movie, with scenes that carry you forward. It's teh sort of book one can absorb without having to dive in and work it. You don't have to fight to enjoy this book. And then, at the end, the book just stops, and it reminds you - this is a book, this is writing, you're supposed to think for yourself, and you're going to have to now, because you care too much to leave the book where it is, you have to finish it. I finished it at work, and had to stop myself from crying it was that good.