Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: Love and Other Natural Disasters

Title: Love and Other Natural Disasters
Author: Holly Shumas
Genre: Literary Fiction
Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: B+

Summary: Eve finds out on Thanksgiving, when she's pregnant with her second child, that her husband, Jonathan, is having an emotional affair. Are emotional affairs as bad, equivalent to, or less bad than sexual affairs? Can Eve ever trust Jonathan again? (Oh, and Eve's family and friends are worth getting to know too.)

First Line: "Some years, I gaze around the Thanksgiving table and I feel almost painfully grateful for my own bounty, for the abundance that is my life, for everything that brought me to this moment, with these people, inside this light. And some years, I just eat turkey."

Review: For reasons beyond the scope of this review, let me just say that this book made me not want to be a writer. Holly Shumas does a pretty bang-up job of writing a book with a seemingly basic hook and keeping you interested. Writing a simple book and making it good is very hard to do. She's set the bar pretty high in this regard. (Perhaps higher than I would ever be able to grasp.)

This book also made me incredibly fearful to ever get married. Shumas is a marriage therapist and I think she might have been writing from some experience. Emotional affairs are no joke. And they probably happen just as often, if not more so, than physical infidelity. The questions that the affair raises in Eve's mind are questions that I'd scarcely want to answer.

A couple of things regarding the technical expertise of this book:

1. The hook came so early in this book that I was nervous for Shumas. I wasn't sure how she was going to sustain this "forgiveness" of the emotional affair for ~300 pages, but she held her own pretty well.

2. She wasn't pitch-perfect in handling this long, drawn-out turmoil in the marriage. At a couple of points I thought, "Yep, it was bad, but you need to piss or get off the pot. Just make a decision about what you're going to do with your life."

3. The climax was kind of surprising. The climax is, not surprisingly, an emotional climax. She has set up the characters of Eve and Jonathan to fit into particular boxes, and then she kind of flips the script. She kept her hand concealed so you couldn't really see "the climax" coming, but it caught me off guard. (But that wasn't all-together bad.) (Neither was it all-together good.)

It's hard to describe the book other than to say this:
1. If you're looking for clean resolutions, don't read this book.
2. If you're looking for a "fun" read, don't read this book.
3. If you don't like to read characters who complain or are "realistic," don't read this book.

Be warned: This book is not for everyone! But, if you like reading about people who live in reality (albeit, perhaps, a reality not like your own) and can take some grief and grit in reading, than this book is totally for you.

Recommendation: People looking for a better alternative to Sue Miller (see this review) will probably enjoy this book.

1 comment:

Words Worth Blogs! said...

Great review! You really went in-depth. It's awesome to see. Thanks for taking the time.

Mandy (Edge of Seventeen)