Monday, January 20, 2020

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It's easy to forget this book is fiction. It's also refreshing to read a book written like a long interview. This story could have just as easily been told as a narrative, but there's something captivating about the idea of almost the entire thing being told without an author filling in the gaps. It's just straight from the mouths of the members of a 70's rock band. Along with the interjections from the people most connected to them, you get this complete picture of the life of a band, in the most intimate way, since the stories come directly from those involved.

It's such a genuine way to present a highly emotional story. Characters remember the same situations differently, impart their own neurosis onto events and share more emotion than I feel you'd get from another presentation style. It's great.

This book has all the elements you'd expect from a novel talking about rock and roll. There's addiction, infidelity, bad relationships, and serious drug use. There's also these amazing moments of love, passion, and creativity that you almost never feel from the outside when hearing musicians talk about themselves or their process. You see real doubt and fear as these characters come together to form an amazing band and then struggle to keep it all in sync. It's so real.

The surprise for me though, and this isn't really a spoiler, is that although all that is in the book, it's not what it's actually about. Yes, rock and roll is ever-present, along with the dynamic of being in a band and facing fame, but what this book is really about is love. How it comes in all kinds and what it means to keep it alive. It's about one woman who has found a successful formula for love and tries her best to empower other women to get on their path toward it. It's also about women who fail at it. It's about the concept that love is about choices. It's powerful stuff, and I appreciate the variety of women we see in the book and how they're each able to settle into where they're really supposed to be instead of being forced into a pre-set container.

This is a quick read and so unlike what's out there right now. It's enticing and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Book club book #9

I went and saw David Sedaris a few months ago, and he recommended this book. I totally get why. With the raw insight and, at times, painful lack of filter, Patchett, like Sedaris, gives us a story that's worth hearing. They're definitely kindred spirits.

In The Dutch House, we get a novel about a very odd and special house, and the family within it. The house seems to have a personality all its own as it's possessed with the power to drive people away as well as suck them in so deeply that death is the only way out.

A broken family lives inside. The mother one day leaves and never returns, no explanation. The children, Maeve and Danny, must lean on each other and their hired caretakers to survive. The dad is elusive. When a new "friend," Andrea is brought home the upheaval only gets worse. The broken family breaks even more as this "new mom" and her two daughters slide into the house and usurp everything.

Through it all, Maeve and Danny, our main characters, rely on each other as more than just siblings. It's a rotating series of familial roles the more they're left to depend on each other. At times, one parents the other -- advising and nurturing and maybe controlling a little. They question each other's choices as only siblings can get away with, but share an unbreakable connection.

As they grow, the Dutch House lingers on in its pristine, overly-huge perfection. An obsession for some, a symbol of trauma for many others, the house is as much a character as the people who have called it home. The house looms for Maeve and Danny as a sight of a lot of pain, yet they can't stay away. As the house's character develops, it becomes a key player in tying up loose ends.

While not all the characters find exactly what they're looking for within the walls of the Dutch House, this book concludes at just the right spot. You close it feeling as if a complete story was told. It's beautiful, emotional, sad, and sweet. The characters are complex and unpredictable. It's a really good story. I loved it.