Publish Date Aug 22, 2017 By Algonquin Books
Young Jane Young’s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
How does one go on after this?
I went into this book knowing very little about it, really only reading the above part of the blurb ( heavily edited from Goodreads which is full of spoilers ) and knowing I had to try this based on my love of her previous novel, The Storied Life of A.J Fikry. That book made my top 10 reads of 2016 so I was very excited to find out that Zevin had another book coming out this summer. I’ve decided to throw my overall thoughts at you early. Here goes…
Not at all meaning this to sound negative, but this was one of the strangest books I’ve read in a long time. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying I predict this book will have polarizing viewpoints…many will love it and many will hate it. In fact, I actually have conflicting opinions myself…I LOVED the first half of this book and the second half…well, let’s just say the second half seems like an experiment in gimmicks with the author trying to toss several in there to see what would stick. Really, it’s almost like 2 separate books! What’s even stranger (for me), was reading the last couple sections and thinking…what in the world is going on here? I mean, I have 2 words for you…El Mete?…and for those who’ve read this you’ll know what I’m referring to… but what was THAT all about?! BUT, for all my squabbles you’ve just read as well as for the fact that I felt this book NEEDED at least 50 more pages….I still really really enjoyed it!! How’s that for weird?
I picked this up at the exact perfect time after several DNFs (Did Not Finish) and I was immediately taken with the voice of the first character, Rachel, who narrates a large section of the beginning of the book. She’s funny, witty and slightly snarky and if I’m honest, I would’ve loved for her to narrate the WHOLE book. We get to know her and her daughter Aviva, whose affair with her older, married boss has Rachel at her wits end. Needless to say, there’s drama and things are said and done by all parties that can’t be undone.
The narration then shifts to Jane who has such a strong voice as well and I found her to be engaging and a character I could absolutely get behind and root for. In my opinion, characters, their dialogue, behaviors, and thoughts, are where Zevin shines in her writing ability. Following Jane’s perspective, we get Ruby, her teenage daughter who sometimes seemed to vacillate between acting like a small child and a young adult. Bottom line: She was ok.
The remainder of the book was told in separate sections by a young Aviva and Embeth, the wife of the older, married man who had the affair. In all honesty, for me, these sections were a bit of a mess and where the gimmicks really came alive. Aviva’s section didn’t at all work for me but I really did like Embeth; in fact, I really wanted to know more about her and what became of her. Overall, I really just needed/wanted more of this story all around but I will say that my very first thought when I realized I did, in fact, reach the end was…you know…I really liked this book. For me, this just proves that I can have issues with what happens (or doesn’t) in a book and the story can feel like it may have jumped on the crazy train for a brief ride, but in the hands of an outstanding author like Gabrielle Zevin I can and will still recommend that you give this one a try, especially if you’re in the mood for something a little different!
Many thanks to Algonquin Books via Netgalley for my copy.