I pride myself on reviewing every book I read, and today I have a confession to make: I skipped reviews for two books in the past month. You see, these were “meh” books. Reviews are easy to write if you love a book, and I also enjoy writing reviews for books that are just plain bad. But if they’re just “meh”? When I’m finished I just want to move on and not think about them anymore. These two books were both contemporary fiction, and had been on my TBR pile for four years. They weren’t bestsellers, and have long passed off the typical book buyer’s radar screen. You’re not likely to find these on the 3-for-2 table at a major book store, nor will there be hundreds of copies in used bookshops.
So really, it doesn’t matter what I think of them. But admit it: you’re kind of curious, aren’t you? And don’t I owe it to you as a reader to help you avoid a mediocre read? Well, here are a couple of not-really-reviews-but-reviews for you:
Wild Life, by Molly Gloss
I really wanted to like this book, because it had a number of elements that normally appeal to me: strong female protagonist, feminism, and a historic setting (in this case, the Pacific Northwest c. 1900). The main character, a widowed mother of four, sets off to help find a missing child and goes missing herself. Unfortunately, the events that followed seemed a bit far-fetched, and the account of her adventure was interspersed with other writings, making it difficult to make sense of the work as a whole.
Gardens of Water, by Alan Drew
Sinan and his family are left homeless after a massive earthquake hits Turkey. His young son Ismail is initially thought to have died, but is found alive in the rubble. Their neighbors, an American family, were not so lucky, losing Sarah, wife to Marcus and mother of Dylan. Then Marcus and Dylan join an American relief corp running a camp and convince Sinan and family to live in the camp. Dylan and Sinan’s daughter Irem become close; their illicit love is a source of family conflict and exacerbates an existing conflict between Sinan and Marcus.
This book, too, had some promising elements but on the whole just didn’t work. Dylan in particular: having lived all of his 17 years in Turkey, he was still very American (jeans, personal music player, tattoos & piercings) and prone to cultural gaffes. It also struck me as odd that Marcus and Dylan, bereaved and newly homeless themselves, would become relief workers. Wouldn’t they need support as much as any Turkish family? Or does their nationality afford them some special status, uniquely able to rise above personal tragedy and help those “less fortunate”?
The novel was also very dry, and didn’t generate the emotion it should have given a number of tragic plot elements.
There, that feels better. Moving on …