Now, I'm not one who is given to hasty judgments, and I usually give an author more than one chance to prove themselves if I find redeeming qualities in their writing. I can honestly say, Anita Shreve can turn a lovely phrase and some of her description so adequately describe the human condition that I find I use a few post-it notes marking passages. The thing is, it takes more than that to make a great novel.
I had read Shreve's novel Where or When some time ago. I had heard so much about the author from other people that I actually bought two at one time. After reading the first, I put the other on my shelf and forgot about it. The first one really made me mad, as I felt the author had woven a good story and then needed to tie up loose ends quickly, so she killed off the main character. Really? Really.
So, before I give this book review, let me just say this...
Authors who consistently use death as an easy out in their stories really piss me off. Truly. Allow me to elaborate...and to prove why "piss me off" is such a perfect way to express the emotion I feel at a writer's flagrant use of one of life's harshest realities.
Life is hard and most of us have to work through it, whether we always feel like it or not. Death is not a resolution. Any writer can use death as an easy way out for a character in a story. It also leaves the reader feeling quite cheated. Not necessarily because the reader has all this emotion and attachment to the character (because, trust me, I didn't), but because the world simply doesn't work that way. Most people do not find themselves in the middle of turmoil, at a major climax in the story of their own life, to find that someone has died. If they do, they certainly don't see it as the turning point to their problem, or that it gives them any resolution at all. In fact, it begins an entirely different line of suffering.
The author, by the way, doesn't feel the need to elaborate on all that suffering after the death. No reason to go into all the details of what happens with all the other characters after the unexpected death. Nope. They can wrap all of that up in one last chapter. Their job is done. You see, the author has filled up the number of pages required to meet their contract or to make their publisher happy, and the reader is left dissatisfied. What may have started out as a great story, just fizzled before your eyes and has left unresolved issues flapping in the wind or the resolution is so weak, it doesn't hold water.
Speaking of water,...
I decided to give Shreve another chance and read The Weight of Water. Great title, yes? I thought so. I was so excited when I read the introduction and even found a quote I liked on the second page!