Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On reading reviews

I recently requested, checked out, and read a book based on a review in a magazine. As it was something sorta ordinary like "Good Housekeeping" or "Ladies Home Journal", I felt safe it picking it up.
I know better.
I hardly ever like anything that is or should be "critically acclaimed" and that applies in all things: books, movies, television, music. That's probably because I have simple tastes. Most of the time. I like it when things blow up. When it comes to books, romance, magic, mystery, suspense, how-to, biographies...I'm interested in them all. And if you can include an explosion and witty repartee, I'm there. I look a little askance at recommendations from academic types. But I read this review, a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, no less:
Baker's bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving's Garp, Anne Tyler's relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood. In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem—and after her father dies when Truly is 12, Truly is sloughed off to the Dyersons, a hapless farming family. Her outsize kindness surfaces as she befriends the Dyersons' outcast daughter, Amelia, and later leaves her beloved Dyerson farm to take care of Serena Jane's husband and son after Serena Jane leaves them. Haunting the margins of Truly's story is that of Tabitha Dyerson, a rumored witch whose secrets afford a breathtaking role reversal for Truly. It's got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama. It'll be a shame if this doesn't race up the bestseller lists. (Jan.)

Here's my problem: I wanted exuberance, infection, magic, breath taking, and impressive-ity. And it just plain isn't. It's dark, depressing, bleak, then she goes and kills a cat. And I am firmly of the Texas camp that some people "just need killin'" but I don't ever go for that in my fictitious relationships with animals. It's a policy. On the plus side, there's a sorta happy ending and there are a few twists and the mean people get taken care of in the end. I'm all about that too. Books should be fair. That's why we read fiction, right? Who wants them to be all...real and stuff?
So the other book I checked out: "The Shack". Just because someone asked me I'd read it and what I thought about it. I haven't. And I don't really hold out high hopes. But at least it's free.
This is why I like to buy books.
Note to self: the next time you run across a review including a word you don't know, move on.

1 comment:

Mundane Jane said...

I would have read this book based on the review also, even though it really does sound too good to be true. Actually, it sounds kinda like the author's cousin wrote it.