Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let's Talk Books

A Trick of Nature

This book is a disappointment. If I had any other library books left, I might not have finished it. This isn't meant to be harsh, but a comment on the inherent challenge of writing about emotionally torn and socially isolated characters.

Certain moments are spot-on with accurate emotional detail and realistic action (like Patty's sudden claustrophobic reaction to motherhood and marriage juxtaposed with her blissful taste of false independence). Too many other scenes are unnatural, forced, or vague (like Greg's teaching career).

Still, Matson is skilled at the craft and the characters each find their own path to or from disillusionment and depression. I also admire her ability to make lifelike and seemingly minor details (like a set of sheets) carry a lot of weight in the overall plot.

So genuine are the characters and events that this book generated tears without making me feel as though I'd been manipulated.

The character I most identify with is the one who dies, which makes for a strange reading experience. The novel feeds into every parent's fear of dying before a child is at an age of independence, and of course, the grieving characters' choices will manifest parental and spousal disappointment for any reader. In spite of this, we must concede that the decisions made are perfectly understandable under the circumstances, and therefore all the more realistic.

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