Daily Archives: December 9, 2010

* How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu

Continuing on the depressing family story theme, How to Read the Air describes the coming apart of the narrator’s marriage intertwined with the disaster of his parents’ marriage. It’s very cleverly done, with point and counterpoint of the two couples, surrounded by the inventive lies the younger couple likes to tell about themselves and their parents, to the point that it’s not always clear which of the multiple realities is the one to believe.

The problem is that it’s difficult to care about any of the characters. Certainly not the bully father. Perhaps the long-suffering mother, but she seems to have left her spunk with the marriage. The lying wife is an enigma, entirely focused towards more money and more square footage (what did she see in her husband, who is clearly not in that mold?) The husband does have an enticing side, certainly when he is with the students he teaches in a posh private school, but he seems to have great trouble staying in the real world for even one class period. So the book is clever, but I could not get into it.

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