The author drew me in immediately with her pace and description of a world rich with culture and tradition. However, I found myself a several points through the book, "Should I keep reading this?" but I enjoyed the layering of characters and events. Glad I finished it but wouldn't recommend it to anyone who gets easily bored.
This book requires quite a bit of patience on the part of the reader. The central event of the story is told in the very first sentence; thereafter, it's a multi-layered "peeling of the onion" to explore the complex relationships among the many family members as well as the impact of that one event upon the family. The writing meanders, reflecting the rhythms of day-to-day family life. In my opinion, by delving so deeply into the mindset, aspirations and personal conflicts of multiple characters (e.g. Vivie, Bec, Mort, Nelson, Howard) in addition to those of Molly the narrator, Poliner has sought to cover too much. She has attempted, via the verbal and action-based interchanges between characters (e.g. between Howard and Nina; between Vivie and Ada; between Bec and almost everyone) to illuminate the unsaid subtext of relationships; that is a very difficult trick to pull off and it doesn't always succeed, most notably in the banter among the men. The richness of character development doesn't come to full fruition until well into Part Two of the book. By that time, I fear that many readers will have abandoned it.
I try never to classify books by gender, but in this case I feel compelled to say that most male readers would lack the patience to see it through to the end. Overall, it strikes me as an ambitious undertaking despite its shortcomings. I wanted to assign it 2 1/2 stars but rounded up to 3 for the sensitivity of the writing.
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