Any reader who was a ballerina as a child and pines for those days: please skip this review, get the book, and enjoy it.
For everyone else, Girl Through Glass alternates between the life of a tween and young teenager in New York, a gifted ballerina, and her current life after a mysterious break from ballet, the reason of which is revealed through the story. All the clichés are there: the hyper-disciplined life of young dancers, anorexia, preying old men, the stage mothers. I did not feel that the story rose much above all that.
My Brilliant Friend is the first book in a series I was enticed to read by a very favorable review of the last book in the series, and it was certainly good enough for me to proceed to book #2, but I could not quite discern why a reviewer would swoon so based on this one… Certainly the story of the mysteriously self-possessed best friend of the narrator (herself rather awkward, if academically gifted), replete with interesting secondary characters and Southern Italian ambiance, is cleverly told in recursive flashbacks, but the plot did not go beyond a pretty standard coming-of-age tale. We shall see how she fares with her rich husband in the next installment…
I don’t care much for dogs. I think of ghosts, tornadoes and fires as cheapshot plot devices. I can’t quite believe that a kid can be mute but not deaf. And I loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which features a mute-but-not-deaf hero, lots of dogs, talking (!) ghosts, a tornado, and a fire as the finale. Go figure.
Don’t be daunted by the 550 pages. This book keeps you turning the pages (sometimes right over the details of dog training, to be honest) as Edgar’s life unfolds, pristinely quiet and protected at first, then turned into a mystery and survival story when his father dies and his uncle becomes a suspect in his death, not to mention his mother’s lover.
While he tells an engrossing story, David Wroblewski writes about the many layers in apparently tranquil relationships: the way his parents love but push Edgar, the small-town protectiveness of the vet towards him and his mother (or is it a more self-interested motive?), and the hands-off and deep friendship of Henry, a character that Edgar meets in the last third of the book. A great book.
Here’s my first try at a not-so-good review. I did not like House Lights, the story of a would-be actress with a psychiatrist father with a history of sexual harassment (of other people, not her.) I found myself rooting for the father in an attempt to escape the self-centered, spoiled outlook of the daughter who imperiously expects her grandmother, her husband (when she gets one), and certainly her parents to pave her way to success and a comfortable life.
The only interesting character, Silke, a friend of the grandmother’s with a mysterious past, unfortunately dies only a third of the way into the book. She is the only character with some depth and I would have wanted to know exactly how she switched from her cabaret dancing youth into her trusted confidante.
Last rant: no grandmother decants her grandchild’s milk into a mug. (And who stirs milk when heating it up?) Get the details right!