It has been a long time since I've read a book that takes place solely in reality. No alternate, distopian futures, no supernatural creatures, no fairy tales come to life - just people doing nothing more than living. This simple act though is complicated enough and Wolitzer easily takes us through the maze of going from adolescent to middle-aged through the lives of a small group of friends who, of course, came together at summer camp. The great equalizer - summer camp - where you're all the same as long as you're there. And, if the bonds are strong enough, what makes you different once you're back on the outside isn't enough to break the friendship apart. I'm a camp girl myself and just have to note it's an amazingly strong bond - camper to camper, camper to staffer - doesn't matter. You are there together so you're connected and it was great to see this as a universal truth through this book.
The lives of a small group of friends, each with their own complicated histories, meet at camp in 1974 as clueless teens who think they have it all figured out. Ash and Goodman are the gorgeous, high-society siblings. Julie or Jules as she becomes by the end of that first summer is essentially an outsider at this creative arts camp, yet finds her way into this tight group of friends. Ethan Figman, whose attraction lies with this talent as an animator and not his physical appearance knows what he wants out of life and is just talented enough to get it. Jonah is the child of a famous folk singer who is holding on to a bitter dose of reality slapped across him early on in life. And finally, Cathy Kiplinger the one member whose body just doesn't align with her dancing talent. They all come together in a tepee at Spirit-in-the-Woods and so begins their stories and the inherent connection they'll all have to each other.
Everyone starts off at the same spot - optimistic for the future - yet everyone's life turns out a little bit differently than the rest. Subsequent events test loyalties and try to dive wedges between friends that never succeed in making a clean break. A few characters grow up and stick with their passion for the arts while other face the harsh reality that you need talent to succeed so go on to less artistic careers. Through all the stuff that makes up growing up, love, heartbreak, marriage, kids, trauma, betrayal, death, success, and failure our characters connect to lean on each other constantly showing what it means to be a friend for life.
The Interestings is simply a wonderful story. Time passes fluidly as Wolitzer moves around between characters' stories. Telling it in the third person keeps the tone even as the action shifts and really lets you connect on some level with everyone. Whether you like them or not (and you won't like everyone) nobody's life is stale nor does anything that happen feel improbable. It's not easy to get a good dose of reality in fiction, but here it is between the pages of this colorful cover.
I loved this book. It's a great summer read - it's a great anytime read, but people just seem to have more time to read in the summer and you're not going to want to put this book down. I finished it feeling like I was given a complete story to experience and I closed the book at the end satisfied.