Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What we're reading: Realistic fiction

I have been looking forward to Deb Caletti's new book, The Last Forever, for a while now. I have thoroughly enjoyed some of her others (see reviews here for Stay and The Story of Us), and I say this to let you know that her books are worth pursuing.

A brief summary: Tessa's mother dies, and she and her father are not coping well. Her dad decides it's a good time to take a road trip, and they end up at her grandmother's house on an island off the coast of Oregon. Since her mother didn't get on with her dad's mother, to Tessa she is a virtual stranger; imagine her dismay when she has to spend a lot more time with her than she had planned. At the local library she meets Henry Lark, with whom she makes an instant connection; but there's a bit of a mystery to Henry that she can't quite fathom. Still, he refocuses her in a positive direction, and then everything goes swimmingly doesn't. It's a surprise ending that redeems itself but not in the way you think it will.
Caletti's prose is as lovely as usual--in fact, I noted several phrases in passing and thought to myself, "Those should be in the quote bank on Goodreads, they're so beautifully put." I liked the characters and the story arc and the back story. I really liked the encyclopedia entries with which she leads off each chapter, and the eventual connection they have with the story.

All that said...I had kind of a hard time connecting with this book. I think it was the telescoping that put me off. Every time she gave a hint of what was to come and then said "but we're not there in the story yet," I winced. It took me right out of the narrative and back to the point of observer, and it bothered me. Others apparently agreed with me; the reviews on Goodreads are all over the place, from a high five to a low two, unusual for this author.

In retrospect I will probably overlook what little I didn't like and realize that this was an interesting, unusual, well-wrought tale and deserving of a high rating. Let's face it, even so-so Caletti would be better than many people writing at their peak! I don't know, maybe I was just in a mood when I read it. You read it too, and tell me what you think!

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