Rated of 5
by Mary (Detroit MI)
The Sweet In Between
Its true: reviews of well-written books write themselves. The ones that suck like a Hoover, however, are hell to critique. After struggling with this little essay way too long, I can only say Id rather do the Turbo Tax Limbo on April 14 than read another book by Sheri Reynolds.
And thats just sad.
Sad, too, that I suspect even semi-comatose readers could have easily detected what I stubbornly refused to admit throughout this ordeal: That The Sweet In-Between was going south by page 20. (Unfortunately, I possess an unhealthy case of low self esteem. I had to give the author the benefit of the doubt; after all, wasnt shes published? Widely acclaimed? Moreover, hadnt Oprah bestowed a coveted perch in her Book Club? But, finally, I couldnt deny my gut reaction. There it was: Clumsy writing, an unseemly number of dead-end subplots, and a mob of unattractive, unsympathetic characters surrounding a central character so weirdly drawn and unlikeable that, when I finally got to the end, I was just relieved to have survived the ordeal.
The few revelations about Kenny, the star of this sordid story, didnt even make much of a ripple, far less impact, on me. On paper, at least, theres seems to be something for everybody. Lets see. Sexually ambivalent, a father in prison, living in a claustrophobic beach town inhabited by a parade of other, one-dimensional characters just made for a film school dropouts rejected script. Even passing references to her sexual victimization did little to elicit pity, particularly when she herself reveals (yes, Kenny narrates her tale; another really bad idea) her own apparent molestation of a younger character. (The only term I can think of here is sorry icky.) Did I mention that she lives with her dads pill-popping girlfriend and her assorted offspring?
What did I learn from the experience? Less really can be more.1 I truly cant recall feeling this devoid of feeling upon finishing a novel unless were counting embarrassed and duped.
I can only recommend to the publisher removing that sweetly innocuous cover illustration and maybe adding a warning label for the jacket.
1 An excellent example is Go With Me by Castle Freeman, Jr.; of course, if you really do want more, splendid examples also litter bookshelves Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, anything by E.L. Doctorow, etc.