In my life, there have always been 3 kinds of books. The first is the kind that are simple and delightful and that I read through in and afternoon of pure enjoyment. Not that these books are always pleasant in subject, but I love drinking them in. They are like the iced tea in my world of books. The second kind are the difficult books. These are the Faulkners and Hemingways and Prousts of my world. Like my favorite book, As I Lay Dying, these books are the kind that I will read a few chapters and then need to take a 20 minute break so that I can digest everything I've read. These are like thick smoothies. They're delicious and refreshing, but they don't go through the straw as easily as the iced tea did. And finally, there is the crap books. Books such as Twilight, they are the sour milk of my universe. 99% of the time, I will take the first sip (20 or so pages) and realize that they are crap and I hate them, and I will promptly return them to the library, or give them away to someone with far lower expectations than I have for my books.
The sixth book I read this year, Janice Keefer's The Ladies Lending Library refused to fit decisively in any of these categories. The book was charming, and well written. Keefer is a very talented author, and she created a very rich environment within the novel, with a huge cast of well developed characters and a fully complex social network. She clearly knows what she's doing. The book wasn't too difficult, it's pretty much the iced tea kinda book....except for the fact that it never really pulled me in. I set it down a lot, and it wasn't because I needed to digest it, it's just because I was getting distracted way easily than I usually am. Near the end, I was actually coaxing myself through by looking at my nightstand at the next book I'm reading..."if you finish this one, look what you get to read next!".
Nevertheless, the book was good. It tells the story of a small community of Ukrainian women living in Canada, who spend their summers in lakeside cottages rearing their children and gossiping in ways that only women in small communities do. Their husbands commute in from Toronto on the weekends, but otherwise their days consist of sunbathing, separating fighting children, making sandwiches, and talking about scandals.
I liked this book because it broadened to all the women in this world, from the women of the "Lending Library" to their daughters, to the random teenager/family friend who's at the lake for the summer to keep her out of trouble(you can guess how well that works), to the old woman who runs the local convenience store.
I think it was a true portrayal of some female relationships, and probably of women in that culture. I guess the reason I didn't relate to it is that I come from a very different social atmosphere. The women in my life love our husbands and boyfriends and partners and children, but we don't put up with their crap. (I love my Tanner dearly, but that doesn't mean I'm going to cook and clean and whatnot all the time. I have a life.) In addition, we aren't as hush-hush about our personal lives. If I have a problem, you can bet the first person I'm going to tell is Tanner, and the second is either my best friend Caroline or My mother. I just have trouble relating to characters that hide everything from each other.
and I guess that's it. relate-ability. I need to be able to relate to a character to make them real to me, and I wasn't able to do that this time. c'est la vie.