Can't just add this to the read pile without a quick note: I am a fan of Lauren Groff, so this book was one in a string of her books for me - I listened to some of this but then I remembered the giant chunk of a book I already had on my shelf, hardcover, enormous, and I had to prop it on my lap and read the rest myself. Groff's writing, with its odd assortment of characters and warped perspectives reminds me of John Irving and everything I love about his writing. Messy and strange, but ultimately compelling and satisfying.
This was a fun romp. I enjoyed reading it, even if the characters are a bit of a stereotype, what with the washboard abs, the massive dicks (except for the bad guy; his dick is reportedly on the smaller side), the super-toned bods, and the fact that nearly everyone in this mostly fictional condo building just north of downtown Atlanta is gay and most of them fuck indiscriminately but safely. Wheeeee, they're young, they're hung, and they're having a good time.
There is lots and lots of steamy sexy times in this book too, and it would be very easy to dismiss it as just another stereotypical erotic romance BUT the two main characters actually do struggle to make sense of their lives and themselves. They do have feelings, they feel hurt and pain and grief, joy and happiness and heartbreak, and while they don't always make the best choices, they do try to get it right.
What begins as a fake relationship with hot sex turns into much more, even if there are roadblocks and fears. If you can look past the first person present tense and superficial descriptions of the hot bods all around, there is actually a sweet romance within.
I enjoyed it. YMMV.
I chose this book on NetGalley because the premise, that a singular moment could open up three distinct possibilities, was appealing. “The one thing that's certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . .” Barnett has set the book up in a rotation for each of the different storylines, so you follow the thread of a particular future every three chapters. I think she did this to keep everything chronological; with the three stories side by side you are able to compare the different paths in real time. However, in a kindle format this can be confusing — challenging to go back and find out who’s with who.
As a fan of stories about artists and writers, I appreciated the way Barnett wove these elements into the plot. Barnett writes with wit, charm and an eye for detail, but even her eloquent prose cannot overcome a less than captivating group of characters. While these main characters loomed large over everyone else, most of the minor characters remained virtually the same no matter what happened in the different plots, which was a shame, because I liked many of them. While I am not an unbridled romantic, I did find it unrealistic that no couple in this book could remain faithful in marriage. There are all sorts of rationalizations and “higher art” themes to justify this, but I found it annoying, and, in some cases, Woody Allen-esque-ridiculous in terms of highly unlikely pairings. I did appreciate (but also, sadly, unlikely) that Eva was wildly successful no matter which path she followed — so yes, girl power and all that, but still. Some of those comments make me feel silly and prudish, but if none of that would bother you, have at it. I remain hopeful that Barnett’s best is yet to come.
This book starts with a bang — dropping you into the middle of the action without any information and then leaving you the balance of the book to put the facts together. Kind of like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not entirely a pleasant feeling, but a compelling device.
From the very beginning, most of the characters are in untenable positions, with their lives spinning ever more deeply out of control. This is not the story of a dysfunctional family, but of a family unable to function at all, as father, and later son, face a crippling mental illness. For me, it was difficult because at times I expected some of the characters to make better decisions; but this would have meant making them based on hard facts rather than heart. Obviously, this was not a light read, though there were some lighter moments; Haslett’s writing is lyrical and elegant, and his character’s fierce love of music is conveyed with loving detail. This book was painful at times to read, but it was, nonetheless, a deeply moving story.