Author: Julia Pierpoint
Publisher: Random House
Published: July 7th, 2015
Format: Kindle ARC
Dates Read: July 8-19th
Source: Received from publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review
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My Rating: 2 Stars
Snippet That Stuck With Me: N/A
Synopsis: or fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.
Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn’t mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack’s secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it’s delivered into the wrong hands: her children’s.
With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can’t possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life—their brittleness, and their resilience
What originally drew me to this book was the synopsis. I couldn't imagine something like this happening to a family. Sure, affairs happen far too often. But for one of the participants to print out all the emails and conversations and send it to the wife of her lover, and instead it falls into the children's hands? I had to read about what would happen after that.
Sadly, despite the synopsis and the promise of that story, the book was a huge letdown.
The main thing that took away from this book for me is the sequence jumping. I don't think I've ever read a book where the story is told out of sequence. It's very unsettling. You start out as the story unfolds and the box is delivered. Then in part two, everyone ages, and you find out what eventually happens to the entire family as they go through life. Part three is a jump back to the past and the summer adventures directly after the box. Part four is somewhere between 3 and 2. The last line of the book had me saying "Seriously? That's it?" to myself.
I felt almost no connection to the characters. The story felt detached, the phrasing blurted out in rough, but descriptive sentences. I think I kept reading the book hoping that it would redeem itself somehow. That somewhere along the way, story would start taking a deeper turn, and you'd really start to get into the characters thoughts as they went through this experience.
I was hoping for a look into the minds of the kids, and how Simon and Kay would process and deal with their father's affair. Simon reacts in anger, Kay seems to shrink away into herself. But there's no deeper processing beyond that.
I wanted more from Deborah too, more than to see her just run away for the summer. And more from Jack, than just seeing him wrap himself in his work and run off to Arizona.
The synopsis promised a story that was funny, wise, and indescribably moving. I found it to be none of these things. I did enjoy bits and pieces of the writing, but that's probably the only thing that kept me from giving the story only one star. If I could sum up the book I would say it reminds me of Jack's installation art piece. An attempt to see inside the destruction of a demolition site that ends up detonating in disappointment one last time unexpectedly, just like his failed art show detonates unexpectedly injuring that woman. Only the ending of the book leaves the reader slightly injured and disappointed.
Have you read this? What did you think of it?