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13th April
2011
written by Steph

I’m not pointing any fingers at this book in particular but I have decided to suspend my Indiespensible subscription for the time being. While I love the idea of receiving a beautiful book (along with extra goodies!) every 6 weeks, at $40 per installment I really want to be loving the books I am getting. And truth be told, the books I’ve read via Indiespensible thus far I’ve just found mediocre. Of the three I’ve read, all of them (including this one) are 3.5/5 reads… which isn’t terrible—I certainly don’t regret my time spent with these books—but they aren’t exactly books that are setting my world on fire. The Fates Will Find Their Way is a book I probably wouldn’t have read if not for Indiespensible. The premise—a girl goes missing from a small neighborhood, and the local boys are irrevocably shaken by this, making up stories about her possible futures well into middle age—while intriguing, was undeniably reminiscent to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I really liked TVS so any book put up against it is going to have some stiff competition. However, Indiespensible sent it my way and all of the pre-pub reviews had been really positive, so I gave it a go, but I have to say, I wound up feeling very ambivalent about this book. First, I really couldn’t shake the Virgin Suicides vibe to the novel, and yet this book felt so much lesser than that one. I think one of the issues I had is that while the book is not really linear in any real sense, it is told in a somewhat retrospective fashion such that a group of men are now recounting their experiences as boys becoming men… and it just struck me as odd an unrealistic that grown men would be so obsessed with Nora and her disappearance given how long ago it happened. Even if there was a sheen of reflection to TVS, it was so firmly rooted in adolescence that it made sense to me that a group of boys would be obsessed with a group of beautiful sisters who are locked away and then kill themselves. But Nora Lindell taking so long to fade from consciousness? I just couldn’t buy it. I did think that taking the idea of spinning out possible realities for Nora after she disappeared was an interesting concept, in part because we as the readers never know what to believe. Every possibility that is offered up winds up feeling like it could be true based on evidence that crops up, but we never know what is fact and what is fiction. And of course, the thing that I spent some time burning brain cells on for a long time was that this is ALL fiction so in some sense, there can be no facts. Creating fictional stories about fictional characters… it’s like a Mobius strip, I suppose, and honestly sometimes the things I deliberate are so weird. Anyway, I liked thinking about fictional fiction, and I even liked that Pittard left Nora so enigmatic. Lately I’ve been really into books that don’t tie everything up all nice and pretty at the end but rather leave the reader with the sense that the story is still going on somewhere out there, we just aren’t privy to it anymore, BUT there was just something about the way Pittard posited all of the possible Nora scenarios that got me wondering about whether she, as an author, knew what happened to Nora and then simply decided it suited her purposes better to not share it, or whether she hadn’t bothered to think it all the way through. How well did she really know here characters (and is this perhaps why she used the first person plural narrator? Because it could shift and be fluid and didn’t require her to pin anything down?)? And speaking of the plural narrator, much has been talked about this device, and while I liked it and felt it brought something to Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, I am not sure that it was quite as successful and/or necessary here. I suppose one issue is that I never really felt like I connected with or “got” the group of boys telling the story as I was predominantly interested in Nora, and I suppose that was really the only thing that linked me to them. I also felt like I was repeatedly struck by how prurient this book was, not because I don’t think boys and men don’t spend an awful lot of time thinking about sex, but it was almost like Pittard over-emphasized the sex in order to try to make her males more realistic or something. I am not entirely convinced that she was fully able to shed her own skin as she inhabited the boys in her book, and as a result I felt like everything was filtered slightly through the lens of what a woman thinks boys and men think. Above and beyond this, while I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, I felt like I never saw what was being said above the main plot. Is it a book about what our lives can become and how the things that happen to us affect us and change our future? That seems fairly obvious and to be honest, and really it seemed like all of the men wind up with reasonably similar lives in the end, so I didn’t even feel as though the various characters dealt with Nora’s loss in all that many different ways. What is this book about above and beyond a girl going missing and working our way through the what if? scenarios? In the end, I guess what it comes down to is the fact that while this wasn’t an unpleasant book, I just really didn’t click with it. There were bits of really lovely writing, and I do think it had interesting elements, but for me the pieces just didn’t fall into place. Rating: 3.5 out of 5

17 Comments

  1. 04/13/2011

    I felt that way about the Lemon Cake book, which I do believe was the last Indiespensible I ordered. Or maybe it was Freedom, which I inadvertently ordered and have yet to read? It’s kinda sad when the goodies are more exciting than the book.

  2. 04/13/2011

    “What is this book about above and beyond a girl going missing and working our way through the what if? scenarios?”

    That’s exactly how I felt about this book. It was OK. Ditto LEMON CAKE, which maybe you liked more than I did.

    I am actually kind of interested in the next Indiespensable shipment since it is a book from a small press that I never in a million years would have even heard about otherwise…but I hear you on taking a break (I did that with the INSTRUCTIONS).

  3. 04/13/2011

    I absolutely LOVE The Virgin Suicides, so I am sort of skeptical of this book, but I definitely want to give it a shot!

  4. I’m confused about this one. My trusted blogging sources are divided and I can’t decide which side of the fence I’ll be. Perhaps I’ll enjoy iy more because I haven’t read Virgin Suicides? Or perhaps I should just go and read Virgin Suicides instead!

  5. 04/14/2011

    I have read many reviews of this book that speak of a lot of the same things you mention in your review. It does sound like a weird concept, and the fact that the boys obsess over the missing girl well into their middle age makes me suspect. I don’t really think it sounds all that believable to me, and the point you brought up about the author either not knowing her characters or being noncommittal with them really sheds a lot of light on this book for me. I was just given a copy of this one and am not all that thrilled to read it now, but I loved your thoughtful and detailed review.

  6. 04/14/2011

    @ softdrink: I understand what you mean about Lemon Cake… I liked it a lot, but there were elements to it that I also felt did not necessarily completely jive.
     
    @ Trisha: I am intrigued by the upcoming Indiespensible book, but it’s another one that I could see reading and liking ok but then not wanting to keep. I think I’m going to wait for another “Freedom” situation where it’s a book that I would be buying anyway!
     
    @ Stephanie: Oh, you certainly should try it, since I am but one voice in millions of others and I know some other bloggers have really liked this book a lot.
     
    @ Jackie: I feel like I might have liked this a lot more if I hadn’t already read Virgin Suicides… that said, I don’t think you can only read one and not the other, BUT if I were going to choose one of them, it wouldn’t be this one! 😉
     
    @ zibilee: I am sure there are plenty of books that require readers to slightly stretch the limits of their beliefs. Normally, I think I can do this, but for whatever reason, this book just wound up bugging be and I constantly felt like I was warring with the author because I didn’t trust her. Maybe I just picked it up at the wrong time…
     
    @ Nadia: They’ve definitely had some books in the past that I would have loved to have received, but for the time being, I’m going to wait for them to offer up a book that I simply must have!

  7. 04/14/2011

    I can dig taking a break from Indiespensibles, since you aren’t really loving the books you get. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t join – I checked out some of the past books they sent out and whilst there were maybe a few I would have read, the majority were ones I wouldn’t want to read. Its a mixed bag. Well, thanks for the review. I actually thought of The Virgin Suicides, too, when I first heard about this book. Oh well, I suppose they all can’t be winners, right. Enjoy your next read, Steph!

  8. 04/14/2011

    I haven’t read Virgin Suicides, but I have Fates on my shelf in galley form. I haven’t felt drawn to read it, and opinions of those who have seem rather divided. Which means going in my expectations won’t be too high, which might be a good thing!

  9. It’s too bad this one also wasn’t amazing. I agree though — for $40, the books should be ones you consistently love. I think I may end up reading this one because I’ve found that I really love the plural narrator in the last few books I’ve read it in.

  10. 04/17/2011

    @ Erin: I think having middling expectations going in will be a good thing. It’s definitely not a bad book, it just didn’t blow me away. I think many of the reasons I didn’t click with it were just me being crabby, so I completely expect others to like it more than I did.
     
    @ Kim: I still think the best example of the plural narrator is Then We Came to the End where it really made so much sense and added so much to the story. What other plural narrators have you enjoyed?

  11. 04/17/2011

    I am similarly conflicted about my Indiespensible subscription. I have yet to read either this title or all of Freedom for instance. I just love the idea of it though. Almost wish that it came with options like perhaps they send out an advance email with title and let you choose whether or not you would like to receive that shipment? Not sure. Bu the things not wanted have made wonderful gifts!

  12. 04/18/2011

    Yep, I’m finding books so expensive now that I’m very picky about what I buy. Sad, but that’s the way it is.

  13. Pam
    04/19/2011

    I adore this cover but it seems like it’s just not resonating with readers that well. I think I may still try it (I really AM such a sucker for a fun cover) but I’ll consider myself warned.

  14. 04/19/2011

    As you know, I liked this quite a bit, but I haven’t read The Virgin Suicides, so I didn’t have that hanging over me. Plus, I went in with low expectations, as I had a sneaky suspicion that the buzz I was hearing was mostly just hype. So it was a pleasant surprise to me.

    The thing that I found interesting about the plural narration was how the boys/men were a single entity but also individuals, that one part of “we” could be shocked by the actions of another part of “we,” yet the “we” still exists. It just got me thinking about community and identity and all that. I have no idea if that’s what Pittard was thinking about, but I liked thinking about it in connection with this book, and that made me like the book.

  15. 04/19/2011

    @ Frances: I have taken to checking the upcoming Indiespensibles and when I see one that I like, I’ll hop on board again! Just feel like I need a bit of a break… I agree it would be nice if you could opt out, but I guess they want as many subscribers as they can get!
     
    @ Nicola: Oh, I completely agree. I’m happy to shell out my money for beautiful editions (hence the appeal of Indiespensible), but I want the books to be good in their own right. I’d rather save up those pennies for books that will change my world.
     
    @ Pam: I completely understand the allure of pretty covers… Have to say, I don’t really understand how the design here matches the book itself, but I do get that it makes the book seem very appealing… Maybe that’s all that matters?
     
    @ Teresa: You’re right that there was both a hive mentality as well as individual identities coexisting within the “we” narrative, and I think Pittard pulled that off quite successfully. I think I wound up pondering other, non-identity, issues however!
     
    @ nat: I love surprise books, don’t get me wrong! I just want to like surprise books as much as non-surprise books. I think it can happen, I just need to wait for a bit before re-entering the fray!

  16. i tried to jump on the indiespensables bandwagon after reading one of your posts a while back but found they were sold out. i promptly forgot to check back. i see your point in not shelling out the money for a 3.5 star read but the idea of a surprise book by mail is such fun! i hope that the people in charge of title selections will pick some 4 or 5 star reads in the future so that i can try this service out!

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