Have you ever read a book and come upon a particular part that made you wonder, to borrow from Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir title, “who thought that was a good idea?!”
Especially frustrating is that I absolutely adored specific parts of these books, meaning questionable editorial choices tarnished what would otherwise have been winners for me.
I realize things like this are strictly a matter of taste. Something that makes my head explode might totally delight another reader. But, why pull a stunt when you’ve already got something great? And, that’s what happened with the three books I’m going to talk about today.
Sourdough is a quirky book melding the technology and food (baking, to be exact) worlds. I was immediately interested in the story and Lois, the main character. She receives a sourdough “starter” as a gift and dives headfirst into the art of bread baking as an escape from her soul-crushing computer coding job.
Sloan had me feeling actual emotions towards the starter itself…almost as if it was a human character. I was rooting for it like it was a sports team and I was thrilled about this!
BUT…literally a few pages later, he made the starter sing. I first thought this was an exaggerated way to describe a realistic sucking or bubbling sound a starter could make. But, then he started comparing it to actual music. And, had it make faces. And, pit it against another starter as if it were an American Gladiator competition. Wha?! Too much. Who thought this was a good idea?
*For me, the starter’s over-the-top antics didn’t fully torpedo this book. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to others, I just could have done without the eye roll-inducing moments.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
I loved the first half or so of this story about a woman whose life dream was to be a writer. At a young age, she decided she would forego marriage and children to focus on her goal. Yet, she got married and had children anyway. It’s a beautifully written, introspective story about Joan’s inner struggle between her very real love for her family, her continued desire to achieve literary success, and her resentment of the choices she’s been forced to make.
BUT…this book is 544 pages. That’s long for an introspective story. And, at least 100 and probably more (I didn’t actually count, but this is my estimated guess) of those pages are excerpts from Joan the character’s writing. I admit that I generally hate what I’ll call “stories within stories.” They pull me out of the central storyline and kill a book’s momentum for me.
This case felt particularly egregious because of the sheer quantity, the overall length of the book, and Joan’s writing’s lack of relevance in helping the reader gain more insight into her life. Who thought this was a good idea?!
*For a more comprehensive review, Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books captured my thoughts on The Resurrection of Joan Ashby perfectly.
The Twelve Mile Straight
After reading the first chapter of this doorstop of a historical fiction novel, I thought I was going to love it. It had a great first line, was hard-hitting, and hooked me immediately.
But, the story just went on and on and on. I felt like I was reading this book for weeks (it was actually 10 days). Henderson told the extended backstories of seemingly almost every character in the book, which could have been cut back. I just wanted the story to be tighter, because it certainly had good bones (to use a real estate term).
And, by the time I got to the end, I didn’t care about the answers to most of the major questions…I just wanted to be done. Who thought this was a good idea?
*To be fair, I didn’t have much time to read during the first half of The Twelve-Mile Straight and I wonder if I would’ve felt differently had I been able to invest more time and mental energy to it up front.
Young Jane Young
I’ve already reviewed Young Jane Young here, but it’s a perfect example of today’s topic, so I’m going to talk about it again. I loved the first half of this one and particularly the focus on the reverberating impact of a public cheating scandal on the female cheatee…and how different it is from the impact on the male cheater.
BUT…part of the second half was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Not only that, it was a FAKE Choose Your Own Adventure story! Choices were indicated at certain points in the story, but there was never an alternate path to actually go down. This whole thing felt like a kids’ comic book to me and didn’t fit at all with the style or tone of the first half of the book. Who thought this was a good idea?!
Has a book ever left you wondering “who thought this was a good idea?” Tell me about your experience!