2006, 414 p.
I’ve seen this book in bookshops for several years now, but I must admit that I wasn’t particularly tempted to read it. Perhaps it was the pink back cover, the book-group questions at the back, or perhaps it was the shelf-company it kept… oh, alright, call me a literary snob. I do read and like Anne Tyler and Sue Miller who write American family-based fiction similar to this one, but you’re probably better off classing this with Jodi Picoult. It was selected for my face-to-face bookgroup (so its marketing strategy of the bookgroup questions at the back was probably spot-on), and I probably wouldn’t have read it left to my own devices, but I have to admit to being thoroughly drawn in right from the opening pages.
It probably speaks volumes about the plot-driven nature of this book to say that it’s impossible to review it without spoilers. So I won’t, other than to say that structurally, it makes decade-wide leaps as it traces through a decision made in the in 1960s as it unravels through the lives of two different families. It is a fairly long book at over 400 pages, and particularly near the end I felt it dragged a bit with just a few too many plot-lines introduced and a heavy reliance on reminiscence to develop her characters. I realized in reading this book how rarely I read a book that relies so heavily on plot (I’m not, for example, much into crime books or murder-mysteries) and I found myself raising questions like “But what about…?” and “I don’t believe that….”
Still, I must admit rather grudgingly that it generated a good book-group discussion (as no doubt it was intended to), and whatever frustrations I may have felt about length or plausibility did not stop me from reading it to the very end. But I still kept wondering, rather guiltily, (and as I often had cause to say to my children when I perceived that they were wasting their time) “Is this the best use of my time?” Probably not, but I enjoyed it anyway.