Book Reviews

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

15815333[1]“From bestselling author Meg Wolitzer a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.”~Goodreads

This book! It totally lives up to the hype of being one of the best books in 2013. Also was worth the time it took to slowly ingest and savor Wolitzer’s brilliant writing for 468 pages. It was like that big bowl of pasta that you get at a restaurant that is so delicious, where you are moaning at each bite and you feel full but then look down and it seems you haven’t made a dent! You don’t want to stop but you really can’t bear another bite. You are full, really, but you must have more. More!

There’s just so much to say about this book and I don’t even know how. I would read a line or two and then sigh or look away to absorb the feeling I got. Nothing spectacular happens. Basic twists and turns in life from the age of 15 to over 50 and having those same friends. But again, it’s the writing that just blows this book out of the water. Brutally honest, clever, sincere, poignant, snarky, hilarious, intelligent, touching, did I say honest? I love when a writer “goes there”. No holding back. If I was a writer, I would say the same things but I am too chicken to put it all out there. But I appreciate that she does.

The only thing, and it’s a small one, is that I would have liked a touch more dialogue. I love when characters talk. They do in this novel but I just wanted more. She developed the characters so well that I felt I knew them and wanted to hear more of their thoughts and ramblings.

So, I just can’t say anymore. This book is an experience and needs to be read slowly. Put it down after a few chapters and walk away. It’s not a quick read and if you are looking for a book like that then put it aside on your shelf for when you are ready. It screams BOOK CLUB! And for playing the “casting” game. So now I have to do the quotes thing. Bear with me. I have a library copy and it has so many of those little post-it flags (over 30…and that was using restraint). It’s also overdue but I am willing to pay the fine until I get my own copy and highlight all the parts that I flagged.

“I’ve always sort of felt that you prepare yourself over the course of your whole life for the big moments, you know? But when they happen, you sometimes feel totally unready for them, or even that they’re not what you thought. And that’s what makes them strange. The reality is really different from the fantasy.”

“I know we live in a very sexist world, and a lot of boys do nothing except get in trouble, until one day they grow up and dominate every aspect of our society.”

“Love transcended all of this, apparently. Love transcended breath, eczema, fear of sex, and an imbalance in physical appearance. If love was real, then these bodily, human details could seem insignificant.”

I read Wolitzer’s book, The Ten-Year Nap, back in 2008 and enjoyed it but for some reason I never picked up another one of her books until this week. Maybe it didn’t leave me with much of an impression but that’s how it is with literature and authors. You can love an author’s writing style or a particular novel but some others don’t resonate. It’s an important reminder to not give up on an author when one book in their catalogue falls flat for you. Also another reminder to take hype, reviews and criticisms with a grain of salt. If I listened to some of the bashing reviews on GR, I would never have picked up this book and try it for myself. Some of you might read this book and hate it or give up after page 200. Others might connect with the characters and feelings and laugh out loud at scenes in public places (as I did) creating stares from strangers wondering if I was ok. Sometimes it just depends on the mood you are in and where you are emotionally when you delve into the fictional lives of others. The Interestings came at the right time in my life where I needed humor, insight, relevancy and reflection.

“We are all here on this earth for only one go-round. And everyone thinks their purpose is just to find their passion. But perhaps our purpose is also to find out what other people need.”

To learn more about Meg Wolitzer, her books and upcoming events please visit her site here.

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