Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meh...A Rare Did-Not-Finish (Marrow by Elizabeth Lesser) and a Mixed Bag (Mister Monkey by Francine Prose)

(Insert usual comments about how I need to get on here more often. There are a number of books on my "to be reviewed" shelf on Goodreads, but I've written up two of the reviews and might as well get some of those reshelved! Sadly, neither is a particularly positive review, but there ARE some books on the shelf that will get positive reviews (when I get to them...)!)

It is rare that I close a book and put it on the shelf unfinished. It feels like a defeat to me and like an insult to the book. However, after a bit of internal turmoil, I did just that with Marrow. I'm not going to give it a rating in terms of stars, but I think it still warrants a short "review" of sorts.

I'm definitely more of a fiction gal, but I was drawn to Marrow when it first came to my attention (note: I received a review copy from the publisher free of charge). I finally pulled it down to delve into (life has been more than a bit busy) after hearing the author talking about some related items on NPR. I was interested in how the two sisters came to know each other, how they accomplished the merger of souls as they went through the donation process. I got a few glimpses of this and enjoyed a few pages here and there about the very different childhoods that can be had within the same walls.  However, the portion devoted to this was so tiny. Much more of the book, at least in the just-shy-of-100pps I read, was something akin to either a self-help book crossed with a primer on the author's view of the life (a mix of various social science disciplines).

I didn't want that and I almost began to resent the time I spent on the book. With time a precious commodity of late and truly needing my reading to be about pleasure and to help me feel refreshed rather than drained, I put this aside.

First things first...this is about a children's play that involves a monkey played by a young boy. It is not, however, a children's book.

Okay, moving on. This novel follows a number of people both directly and tangentially tied to a mediocre production of a fairly mediocre play based on a beloved children's novel. Early on, the reader experiences a particularly notable showing in which the young boy, a gymnast on the verge of puberty who has a wreck of a stage mother as his primary parent) who plays the monkey wreaks a bit of havoc including sexually assaulting one of the adult actresses (he's supposed to jump in her arms, he...well...humps in them instead). This episode factors into a number of the different narratives the reader comes across as Prose takes them from one character to another to another, with each character serving as the protagonist for one chapter.

As I suppose is common with this sort of book, I found myself really enjoying some chapters and hurrying to get through others. The word "zany" pops up in many reviews...both in reference to the book and to the play at the center of its orbit...and that's pretty much the best way to sum it up. Zany but also, at times, dark. Along those lines, I feel like it was far from a serious read, although it did have some serious moments and serious thoughts including a lot about destiny, loneliness, and even the suitability of evolution as a topic for children. Honestly, I finished it a while back and while I remember my response to some characters' tales, I can't really remember a feeling about the book as a whole. I think that probably sums it up best. 

3 stars. That falls a bit below my somewhat standard 3.5 which is what I'd usually give a book that I  generally enjoyed but didn't feel all that strongly about. The lower score meshes with the fact that I enjoyed parts of it but was very much ready for this book to end. I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It doesn't bother me and I imagine it is evident from the summary and the reviews one can find here and elsewhere, but both sex and religion (largely in reference to the aforementioned issue of evolution) come up.