Posted by Fran McDowell
Love is wonderful, the second time around . . . or not.
I was pretty psyched about the Blown Away topic. It gave me a reason to reread a lovely, little middle grade novel that I'd carried in the back of my mind for years. Like vacation spots, I seldom repeat books. There are simply too many places to see, too many books to read, to be a repeater. But I wanted to rave about this book since it had hung quietly around in my memory bank for quite some time. I can't say it had blown me away, but it sure left an impression.
Sadly, (since I'm a writer) I couldn't remember the author's name. But the title was one of those one-worders, easy to remember. I searched through scores of books on Amazon. Every one with that word somewhere in the title came up. There were many. But, lo and behold, seven or eight pages in, there it was. I clicked it into my cart.
A week later the edges of a large envelope poked out of our too small mailbox. The weather forecast for the next three days: rain, mixed with snow--an ideal scenario for brewing pots of tea, switching on my full spectrum anti-SADD light, and rereading the perfect little novel.
By page ten, something seemed wrong. The story wasn't unfolding the way I remembered. Had the aunt come across so blatantly harsh so soon? By page thirty, I could already see where things were headed with Dad. Hadn't the pacing been slower the first time I'd read it? Hadn't the author deftly led the reader, and the young protagonist, deliciously in one direction then switched it up? How could I remember the writing so differently than I saw on the pages before me? By page one hundred, I just wanted to finish.
Not that it wasn't a terrific little story, but it's a lot like re-opening a Christmas present: if you already know what's under the ribbon, beneath the wrapping paper, inside the box and bundled in the tissue, the unveiling isn't nearly as enticing. I've always believed that a characteristic of a really great book is its ability to stand up to numerous readings. I'm half tempted to give it a third try now that my expectations have been tempered. Maybe the third time will be a charm.
I am, however, going to leave you with an adult novel that did blow me away, particularly the ending. But I probably won't risk reading it again . . . just in case.
T.C. Boyle's Tortilla Curtain is contemporary, socially sensitive, fast paced, tragic and humourous, all bundled into a relevant story of two couples whose totally disparate lives cross, collide, and, in the end depend on each other. It is beautifully crafted and left me wondering how Mr. Boyle was able to capture so convincingly the desperation of the lives of illegal Mexican immigrants, Candido and his wife America. If you allow yourself to read with honesty, you will squirm in your seat as you relate, even on the remotest level, to Delaney and his wife Kyra, residents of a soon-to-be-gated California community. The brilliance continues to the very last words and leaves you feeling glad that you read it.