Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Bad Moon Rising
A strange thing happened to me recently. I read a book by a well-known, lauded author and didn’t like it. It was Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon. Sebold’s first novel, The Lovely Bones, was a huge success. Lots of people love that book. I love that book. It was made into a movie, which I would like to see. I read Sebold’s memoir Lucky and loved that too.
So what the heck happened? I think it comes down to characters. Both The Lovely Bones and Lucky are about young women who are raped and how they rise above the horror in an astonishing and heroic manner. These are characters (well, an actual person in the case of Lucky) that you want to stand up and cheer for.
In The Almost Moon, the main character starts off the novel by smothering her elderly mother who is suffering from dementia. It’s a kick-butt first chapter, but I had a tough time getting through the rest of the book. The writing was superb, but the pace was tedious. What a weird combination!
Now, as much as I like to think that I am unique, I know I’m not. So I clicked over to Amazon to check out the reviews for The Almost Moon and guess what? Out of almost three hundred reviews, a full one-third, yes 100 reviewers, gave this book one star. So it’s not just me. It was very interesting to read these reviews and see the same sentiments show up over and over. Here are two comments that sum up my reaction to this odd book:
Stephen S. Mills: This book is compelling and strange and never lets you off the hook for a second. It challenges your thinking, your own relationships, and that thin line between normal behavior and the grotesque. This may not be "enjoyable" but it is powerful and worthy of anyone's time.
A reply to Mills by Jeffrey: The problem with The Almost Moon is not, in my mind, the subject. It's the characters. Sebold makes her protagonist patently unlikeable. And it's hard to enjoy a book when the reader spends so much time hating the main character.
I find the use of the word ‘enjoy’ interesting in these comments. What does it mean to ‘enjoy’ a book? If you find yourself disliking a book, do you finish it or not?