Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review Part One: How to Buy a Love of Reading

The consequence of having a husband in medical school is that I have a husband who studies all the time. Which is exactly what he's supposed to do, being in medical school... but it also means I'm curled up beside him on the sofa, him with his laptop and me with a book. I never complain about a circumstance that leaves me curled up with a book.

My two most recent reads have been How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Image via:
her review here

I picked this book off the library shelf entirely because of its cover and title. I do, I hate to say, often judge a book by its cover.

This is a novel for those who love books, about a girl who hates to read ("Never met [a book] I liked"). Set in the land of Gatsby, and continually referring back to Fitzgerald, this novel revolves around a community of families so fabulously wealthy that they have everything they could want -- and none of them are content. The story centers around Carley, a poor student, an overweight and unpopular disappointment to her obsessive mother, whose parents hire a writer to craft her a novel for her sixteenth birthday, a book she has to love. They intend to buy her the love of reading.

Gibson takes Carley, her best friend Hunter Cay (the community's golden boy and aspiring writer who falls continually deeper into the pit of alcohol and drugs), and Bree McEnroy (the struggling and bitter author hired by Carley's parents) on a dark and painful pathway through the hidden sins of the elite upper class and the elements of story until they each uncover their own selves. This is a story about stories: the ones we live in, the ones we love to read, and the ones we make up to ignore the truth around us.

I kept reading through to the end because I was curious how Gibson would save her characters, who all seemed to be drowning while trying to find themselves, and trying to save each other at the same time. Gibson seems to stereotype the upper crust, giving them the life as seen on television: nothing but alcohol, drugs, sex, and secretly hating one another and themselves -- and no one to save them but themselves.

More than the search for self, I saw in this novel a deep, painful cry for something more. Perhaps it's foolish and naive of me to say, but I kept thinking the whole time I was reading, these people need Jesus so badly. In the search for themselves, these characters destoy themselves. Hunter spends the entire book under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. None of the husbands love their wives; none of the wives love their husbands; none of the children love their parents. This is a book of wounded souls searching for themselves -- they have nothing but their own selves, their own sins and guilt, the knowledge that they are broken and cannot fix it. Gibson gives them nothing but clever satire, a finished story for Carley, some deep literary metaphor that will not satisfy.

Gibson's novel seems intent on proving her own cleverness. And yes, she is witty, and the story is compelling. But to me, Gibson's novel proves her own blindness, her own foolishness. Her characters are hopeless, and she leaves them hopeless. No matter how much more they know or love themselves four hundred pages later, she still left them in the deepest darkness.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant!

    I just realized that the only writings of yours I know are what I read here on your blog and what I heard at your thesis presentation. This review really makes me want to take a look at some of the other papers or essays you've done.