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Friday, June 03, 2016

Oh, To Be Popular

I think it is interesting that we may hear a lot of buzz about a particular book. We may see it mentioned in several different places as a "must read" for the summer. We may end up on a huge waiting list at the library if we can practice patience and not rush to buy it as soon as possible. And then the time comes... to finally settle in and start reading. Does the popularity of the book carry through? Do we ever feel disappointed after reading it?

I had mixed feelings about The Nest. That is one of the books that has been hyped everywhere I look. I was on two different library waiting lists. One of them, I'm number 48 out of at least 96 other requests. But I happened to be *in* the library the other day, and The Nest was proudly standing stock still in the "Lucky Day" section. I snatched it up, brought it home, and started reading as soon as I could. The writing was fine, and the characters have a lot of different personality quirks and interests. I kept getting this nagging feeling that it was sort of a typical Manhattan-family story about a group of family members who are plagued by wealth or the lack thereof. Each of the family members has a different relationship to money and the importance/influence it has on their life. They have all sort of been in a holding pattern, waiting to see the day when they'd get their inheritance. It felt like even though they were adults, none of them had fully grown up. The stories in the book seemed like they took a long time to unfurl. There were a lot of characters and interactions between them. But then, the last forty or so pages, everything just sort of wraps up in a tidy ending... but the action is lost, and there is just telling about each character as the book comes to a close. It put me in mind of a movie or tv show where the last couple of minutes is a montage that has fast forwarded and showed how everyone ended up. So I felt a little bit disappointed. I ended up feeling like I wanted more or that the ending was sort of an easy out or the novel would have dragged on for awhile longer. The climax of the book just wasn't really there for me or felt a little shallow. It was a good quick summer read, but ultimately, I felt disappointed.

On the flip side, I read a book from NetGalley, called The Summer That Melted Everything. I had heard no hype about this book. I hadn't seen any reviews of it or even heard of the title before. But after reading the description, I thought it sounded mildly entertaining. I almost expected it to be humorous. But wow... was I wrong. This was a powerful book, so beautifully written, that is made me wish I could have written it. The language is dreamy and there is a certain rhythm to the words and phrases that adds to that feeling. It is mesmerizing, and it is definitely a book that will stay with me for a very long time. The characters are odd and have quirks like others in a small community, but the writing, scenes and situations are rich and almost have a mysterious/mystical quality to them. Unlike a shallow motivation surrounding money, this book deals with unbelievable tragedy in unusual ways.

Both books have a character coming to terms with being gay. Both have tragedy/loss, but The Nest sort of glosses over it like it isn't as important as the family coming to terms with their ideas of betrayal and financial hardship. The Summer That Melted Everything deals with a lot of darkness and pain, and you feel every bit of it.

Obviously The Summer That Melted Everything isn't a typical mainstream novel, but it is a shame that it won't be seen that way. It should receive the hype and the popularity and have people wait-listing to get it at the library.

Get the book as soon as its released. Read it. Savor it. Cry in the parts that will make you cry. Feel the rage. Let the book carry you on its emotional tidal wave. Let it become part of you. You won't regret it.

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