Tag Archives: Riverhead Books

Book Review: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Publisher: Riverhead Books, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-1-59448-839-9
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is never easy to write about the world the way it is. To talk of love and friendships and everything that takes place in between is never something that can be done without wrenching the way you feel about them. I have always admired writers who can manage this and continue to do so, because it takes a lot out of the writer to dig in and generate stories that resonate long after you have finished the book. Books that speak of growing up and its challenges and make me realize how I feel about the way things are, manage to be very close to my heart, and one such book that I have read off-late is, “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer.

“The Interestings” begins kind of slowly, almost letting you see how things got to where they did. However once that is shaken off, the book somersaults into various kinds of emotions and that is where the narrative is the strongest. The writing reminded me of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen – more so because of the back and forth in time, almost linear in narrative and sometimes just spellbinding. It is a chronicle of four decades and the lives of six strangers who become friends at a summer camp in the seventies and how their lives change every year after that. The narrative and action takes place mostly in New York and that is another charm of the book. This is the basic plot of the book and as the adage goes, there’s more to what meets the eye and it could not get truer for this work.

I had never read anything by Wolitzer before this one, but I sure will now. The references throughout the book of the decades gone by are extremely interesting. What is even more interesting is how she manages to stick her story inside all of this and make each and every character stand out. She speaks of the rituals of childhood, the dilemmas of adulthood and how when middle-age takes over, it comes with envy in its wake. The writing is dynamic, with a lot happening on almost every page and maybe that is one of the reasons I wanted to put it down and take in every word page by page and moment by moment.

The various friendships forged throughout the book just reminded me of my relationships and people who I have held close for years. It also reminded me of friends who have drifted away. That is the effect of this book. It not only makes you think, but also feel. The subject matter of the book may not be original – since it is about friendships being forged and then not working out at some level, however the way Wolitzer writes is something very unique and brilliant.

The writing is economical and yet the expressions aren’t. Wolitzer manages to capture the essence of every single emotion. From a successful couple to a one who is not so and how their friendship takes on its own form and shape. The novel provides various insights and various perspectives and that is something which is hard to miss. Each character has his or her voice and that helps a lot as you turn the pages. It is not a story told from one perspective or a single person, which I loved the most about this one.

“The Interestings” title comes from the fact that the six friends do not want to be boring and Wolitzer ensures that for the reader at every single page. Characters are forever growing in this one and that is what makes the book so unique. The cover of the book is retro and says a lot and connects wonderfully to the plot. A must read for all. I totally recommend this one wholeheartedly.

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Book Review: The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

Title: The Grief of Others
Author: Leah Hager Cohen
Publisher: Riverhead Books, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-1-59448-612-8
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is not easy to read a book about grief. I am certain that it is not easy to write about grief as well. I am sure the process is excruciating – mentally, physically and emotionally. More so, it is not easy to deal with grief once it strikes you and you relate to it through a book that you are reading and will eventually review.

I lost a parent at the age of twenty-one. This is personal and yet while reading, “The Grief of Others” by Leah Hager Cohen, I kept thinking of my father and the times spent with him. Maybe that is what grief does – it reminds you of stuff and it connects with you and others at a deeper level, even if it is a writer and her work.

“The Grief of Others” is about The Ryries and the loss they have suffered: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. John and Ricky, in the wake of this tragedy, try to return to their lives. They want normalcy and want to make things the way they were. However, nothing works out the same way. Their children, ten-year old Biscuit and thirteen-year old Paul, respond to the unnamed tensions in the air around them and act out their lives with grace and eccentricity. The couple cannot understand their children and they cannot understand themselves anymore.

The story further moves on when a stranger arrives at their doorstep and they deal with their loss and pain and unite once more as a family, in surprising ways.

The plot of the book is basic and may have also been written about in the past. But the way Cohen writes is different. There is this starkness, almost raw quality to her writing. A spade is a spade and there is no sugar-coating for the emotions and the way her characters feel. Secrets tumble out the closet and things happen along the way, but the eternal question that remains in the readers’ minds while reading this book is: Will this family be able to cope what they are going through?

For me, the book touched a chord somewhere as I mentioned earlier and maybe that is why, I am of the firm belief that there is nothing more universal than grief as an emotion. It somehow connects people in a very different manner. The writing in the book is thankfully not sentimental. It is emotional and makes you think and at the same time makes you wonder about your relationships with people.

“The Grief of Others” is about fragile people, who are trying to patch themselves after a disaster. It is about people who do not know best when tragedy strikes and wait in the wings for things to become alright. They try, they fail and they try once more, with the help of a stranger. Sometimes for all that you endure; you finally last at the end of it all. “The Grief of Others” is emotional and it is heartfelt. Read it only if it appeals to your senses.

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