I don’t know why it took me so long; it’s only 356 pages, which is nothing compared to any of the Harry Potter books that thirteen year-olds finish in one ten-hour all-night stretch.
I’m not even sure where to start on the book without giving away too much of the plot. On second thought, I guess most of the plot is pretty self-explanatory from reading any of the blurbs about it. A teenager gets pregnant, gives up the baby for adoption, gets pregnant again, doesn’t give that baby up for adoption, and we follow the lives of the two kids as they grow up and their paths cross. There’s not a whole lot of love in this book, although the main characters are sympathetic people. And none of the characters reminds me of me. They’re all from Nebraska and South Dakota, with little stints in Chicago, and I don’t have much in common with any of them.
As for the story structure, each chapter is given a date, and they don’t go in chronological order. Uh-oh — sounds a little like The Egyptologist. Although Chaon does a pretty good job of not completely confusing the reader about who’s involved, what’s going on, and when it’s happening in relation to other chapters. What Chaon has going for him is a very readable writing style, and a gift for prose. Like The Confessions of Max Tivoli, this book makes very good use of metaphor, without losing the reader (unlike The Final Solution). Is there such a thing as “book-dropping”? Because I seem to be doing it. Anyway, where I think Chaon stumbles a little is in his ability to convey a long-form tale. Apparently, this guy has won (or almost won) lots of awards for his short stories, and this appears to be his first foray into the novel (correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. DJ), and I think he overcompensated. This story doesn’t need to be this long, and includes lots of details which, while not red herrings intended to add suspense, also don’t do anything to move the story along (in the manner of John Grisham’s style, like in A Time to Kill).
All in all a pretty nice read, but not nearly as moving as the blurbs would lead you to believe. But Chaon lives in Cleveland Hts. (sort of my adopted hometown from my college years), so I’ll cut him some slack.