A few friends and I decided to read this book together after seeing the trailer for the movie. Even though there were a lot of elements I liked about this book, ultimately I traded it in at a used bookstore.
But let’s start with what I liked.
- The author does a great job stylistically with how descriptive she is. She really focuses on the details so that you gain a level of realism that many other books lack.
- She allows her characters to be deeply flawed. For instance, her protagonist is having an affair. I think she assumes that most of her readers won’t agree with the affair, and yet she handles it unapologetically, and even explores the “other woman’s” point of view.
- She explores ideas of identity and fulfillment through the struggling people she portrays.
- She spends a considerable amount of time humanizing Kate who has ALS.
- It brings up a lot of interesting thoughts and discussion about care taking, and the right to decide how we die.
Although I appreciated all of these things, ultimately it was a very difficult book for me. I just didn’t relate to the main character. Her life was so out of control, and I didn’t feel like she did much of anything to pull it together. She was very reactionary, and I felt like it caused her a lot of pain.
I don’t really think that anyone in the book was emotionally healthy. And not everyone has to be, but it was difficult to see that they weren’t expected to make any steps towards a healthier self. Most of their decisions was motivated my selfishness and after a while, it became wearing.
Sex was, in many ways, it’s own character throughout the novel. From the protagonist’s affair, to Kate and her husbands relationship, it was a constant theme. Despite it’s prevalence in the novel, at many points it felt gratuitous, and at all points it didn’t feel like it was helping the characters grow. I often felt like it was a cheap substitute for genuine interactions and communication. (Not that sexual relations can’t be genuine and communicative. They can and should be, but these weren’t, and that was the point of my frustration.)
It’s not a book I would recommend, but if the above exploration sounds intriguing to you, be my guest.