Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Interestings: A (sort of but not really) Review

I'm not even sure how to start writing this review, so I'll copy and paste from the back of the book.

" 'Every summer we sit like this. We should call ourselves something.' Ash Wolf said.
'Why?' said Goodman, her older brother. 'So the whole world can know just how unbelievably interesting we are?'

On a warm July night in 1974 six teenagers play at being cool. The friendships they make this summer will be the most important and consuming of their lives. In a teepee at summer camp they smoke pot and drink vodka & Tangs, talk of G√ľnter Grass and the latest cassette tapes; they also share their dreams and ambitions, still so fresh and so possible.

But decades later not everyone can sustain in adulthood what had seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, has resigned herself to a more practical occupation; Cathy has stopped dancing; Jonah has laid down his guitar and taken up engineering. Only Ethan's talent has endured. As their fortunes tilt precipitously over the years, some of them dealing with great struggle, others enjoying extraordinary wealth and success, friendships are put under the strain of envy and crushing disappointment.

Against the backdrop of a changing America, from Nixon's resignation to Obama's new world, Wolitzer's panoramic tragicomedy asks how 'the Interestings' can be happy with being anything less than brilliant?"

First of all, I loved this book. Whenever I talk about it (to anyone and everyone who will listen for even just a moment) I feel like I come off sounding like I didn't like it, but I really really did.

I started reading it after Emma and Elsie randomly said she was doing it for a book club. I mentioned it to Angela and she said she'd been thinking of reading it. The American cover was cool looking, which is enough for me, so I bought it while we were in Prague and began reading right away.

I'd just finished reading four Jack Reacher books in a row. They're not my typical type of story, but I could NOT get enough, and I wanted nothing more than to start the fifth one, but they're so exciting and fast paced and FUN, I thought I should probably read something a little more substantial. Sound pretentious enough for you? Yes, I often get a little full of myself.

As a side note, when I was about two thirds of the way through (it took me FOREVER to read, because I was so terrified that something was going to happen to Dennis. I made Angela tell me, and she must have sensed my desperation and cray cray, because although she usually refuses to reveal any sort of spoiler at all, when I ranted and raved 'please, please, does anything bad happen to Dennis?!?!' she replied with a clipped 'no. now finish the book already.') where was I? Yes, two thirds through and EW's Best of 2013 came out. As a side note to my side note, I get my EW on Daisy's iPad, for anyone living overseas and getting frustrated that it takes an extra three weeks to get your magazines in the APO. If your magazine has an iPad edition, it's free, and JUST LIKE a real magazine!! LOVE.

So I immediately flipped to the back to devour Stephen King's The Best Books I Read This Year article. Sometimes he picks obscure weird scary shit that I am NOT interested in, but you can always tell by the way he writes about it, so I never worry. If anyone is interested, here are his picks. This is how much I do not want to write this review, I'm going to take the time to copy all this out with links. Oy.

10. The Good Nurse (non fiction, not my cup of tea, not interested.)

9. The Shining Girls (might add it to my list, but probably not)

8. The Wicked Girls (unsure. It sounds good to me, but Meredith reviewed it and didn't make it sound good, and she's NEVER steered me wrong.)

7. The Casual Vacancy (already read this, didn't love it, but I did LOVE the ending. Cuckoo's Calling was MUCH better.) (Obviously, he follows my rule that his list doesn't have to be things that came out in 2013, just things that HE discovered that year.)

6. City of Women (added to my list)

5. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (might look into this more, the guy who wrote it did Cloud Atlas, so it very likely might be over my head.)

4. The Goldfinch (feel like I should read this because everyone else is, but at the same time I feel like I should NOT read this because everyone else is. Yes, full of myself.)

3. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (sound boring to me, who knows)

2. The Interestings. Number two on his list of best books of the ENTIRE year.

1. The Orphan Master's Son. Never heard of it, doesn't interest me, but I might give it a whirl because I love SK so much.

All right. I can't think of anything else to avoid talking abut the book.

SPOILERS ABOUND. Sort of, because it's not really that kind of book. But still, just in case you're not one who wants to know ANYTHING at all, SPOILERS AHEAD.

It says it's about five characters, but really, it's about three, and sort of a fourth, Dennis, who isn't even included in that original five. I thought Jonah was a waste of ink, he didn't really add anything to the story, and Cathy and Goodman are just sort of background noise. The story is about Ash and Ethan and mostly, Jules.

It isn't a typical book with a plot. Know what I mean? The narration just sort of follows their lives, from fifteen to mid fifties. There's not any sort of mystery or drama, not big conflict to resolve, it's just them, living their lives.  As painful as this is for me to do, I'm going to go ahead and include some snippets of my conversations with Angela, because I can't bear to have to write this out again, in better form, but I really think this is how I felt about the book. Please don't think less of me. If it's possible to think less of someone who doesn't want to read the Goldfinch just because other people like it.

So there you go. This book, for lack of any better phrase, GOT UNDER MY SKIN. I've never read anything that did that THIS MUCH. I've never related SO MUCH to characters, and been SO ASHAMED to relate to them. I was so horrified that Angela would think I was Ash, then more horrified that I was thinking that she would think I was Ash, it was just a hot mess.

And Angela nailed it: we see SO MUCH of them. That's what made it so different. You don't just see the parts pertaining to the plot, because there really isn't a plot. You just SEE EVERYTHING.

Obviously, one of the best parts of this story, for me, was the friendship between Ash and Jules. As you know, Angela and I met in the eighth grade, so we were even younger than Ash and Jules. And we broke up, for lack of a better term, when we left for college and those were some of the loneliest years, because no one knows you like the girl who's couch you sat on every single Friday afternoon for the five years of adolescence. No one knows you like the girl who's bus driver knows your name because you ride her bus home almost as much as you ride your own. No one knows you like the girl who's bathroom sink you shaved your legs in at two in the morning before a youth group trip to the water park. No one knows you like the girl who rolled her eyes when you fell into and out of love. No one knows you like the girl who automatically turns on the close captioning when you bring out the bag of dorritoes because we can't hear the tv over the sound of our chewing.

And this quote is one of the few in the book that I marked, even though it was FULL of good ones, because after we broke up, we found our way back to each other, and even though we haven't lived on the same continent since that December of 2008 we we hooked back up (I may be wrong about that date, but I feel like it was right after Aidan was born, and wasn't she born then?) we are as close as we ever were.

"And you could go with your best friend to this friendly location removed because it won't make sense of out context and stand together, silently shaking with laughter, both teenaged and fully grown all at once, knowing that you would never have to chose between those different states of maturity, because you contained them both inside yourselves."

So it ended up being perfect that Angela and I read this together. So maybe read it with your own bestie?

I don't know. Take from this (not even close to an actual) review what you will, but this book is one that should NOT be missed. I wouldn't drop everything to read it, but I would definitely make a point to get it done, because it will make you think. A lot. About yourself, and the roles you play in other people's lives, and about lying to yourself, and being delusional, and the importance of going after your dreams, at least a little.

Phew. This was one of the hardest things I've ever written. Seriously. I've been writing it for almost an entire week, so that's why it seems sort of choppy. This book man, it just GOT into my head!!!

Next on my kindle? Book of Secrets recommended by Meredith and reviewed here. I'm only on chapter three, but I already love it and I'm already thinking of ways I can get my hands on a first edition copy of any of the Narnia books. Spoiler alert, I cannot get my hands on any. Ever.


  1. I think The Wicked Girls is worth a shot if it sounds good to you --I wasn't buying what Marwood was selling, but I CAN sorta understand how and why everyone else seemed to love it.

    I feel the same way about The Goldfinch.

  2. I think The Wicked Girls is worth a shot if it sounds good to you --I wasn't buying what Marwood was selling, but I CAN sorta understand how and why everyone else seemed to love it.

    I feel the same way about The Goldfinch.