He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. ~Leo Tolstoy

Monday, July 13, 2015

Shout it from the rooftops!

Once, when I was in college, I had a date with a young gent and we tossed back a few too many cocktails before deciding to see Saving Private Ryan in the movie theatre. We got there late and had to sit about three rows back from the front. And then the invasion began.

If you recall this movie, the first ten minutes or so is the storming of the beach at Normandy. I had to watch it with one eye closed, sort of unable to process it all. Maybe that was the booze, but I think it was more the reality of it. I remember thinking, "Thanks a lot, Spielberg. If I wanted to fight in WWII I would hop in my time machine and go." I felt like I had been right there, in the thick of it. 

What, pray-tell, has this to do with The Man I Love? Because that's sort of how I felt reading this book. Like I was right there, right in it, too close for comfort sometimes. In fact the sweetness of the first 30% I read with a vague sense of unease twisting in my gut. I was anxious the entire time because I knew this sweet, soul-deep love story was going to get blown to bits and I was going to be splattered with the blood and guts of it. 

There's a word, "interiority". There is a regular definition for it, but the literary one is Interiority is defined as a character's thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the situation. It's a flashier word for "show" (as in show, don't tell) but it's a little more than that. The ability of an author to do this is what connects a reader to the characters, and if it's done in the jaw-droppingly masterful way that this author does it, instead of watching or reading the text, you're living in it, absorbing it, you're RIGHT THERE. This novel is a textbook definition of interiority done right. Despite the--sometimes--pages of almost unbroken exposition, Erik's interiority never wavers. We're right there with him, intimately so. Every joy, heartache, pain, loss, grief. You live it right a long with him. His story comes to life, and there's a LOT of story. 

I don't do recap reviews; as a writer myself, I like to focus on mechanics and the HOW of the writing. How did she do it? Why? So this probably doesn't read as a typical review but it's the only way I know to describe and process artistry such as this. Suffice it to say, this author had a story to tell and she told it. She gripped it tight, twisted, and wrung it dry, and was unapologetic about all of it. 

For instance, insta-love. It's a generally hated term in the romance world and something most authors tend to avoid, incurring the insta-wrath of readers if done poorly. And rightly so, as it usually comes off as a cliche. Here the author is unapologetic, having her characters even come out and say it, "It's only been a week." And it worked. Why? Two reasons: The first being once you've mastered all the rules you're free to break them. So she did and fuck it, it was glorious. Secondly, there are those who recognize the longevity of a soul, its agelessness while bodies wither and die. If one is a believer in the idea of soul mates then one must write honestly about how two soul mates would react upon being confronted with one another again. 

She said it with her eyes, he heard it clearly in his head, and it wasn’t hello. It was, “Well, here you are.”

Here I am, he thought.

And that's how it's done. 

"Insta-love" is cheesy and stupid when two characters meet and fall in love in order to speed the plot along or for the convenience of the author. Insta-love, when it's the core principle in the novel itself, when it's soul mates reconnecting, is as integral to it as a beating heart is to a body. There is a difference and this is it. 

Now there were two parts that threw me out a bit, though neither was unable to the shake the book from a 5 star perch. But...(view spoiler)

And (view spoiler)

Those nits aside, I thought this book was astounding. I was RIGHT THERE the whole time and it wasn't always easy. This is not the book you reach for when you want some fluffy escapism, nor is it even the book you want when you're feeling angsty for some good drama. This is the book you read when you want to jump heads and live another life or when you want to submerge yourself into another reality, blood, guts and all. It's the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, the chaotic battle for survival against impossible odds, and you are--say it with me now--RIGHT THERE. 

As for me, this is the book I will only read once, though I may return to certain parts for the phrasing. And I will read the sequel, though I'm going to need to buffer myself with other books of fluffy escapism first. Then, when I have amassed the mental fortitude to journey into Daisy's mind, I'll read the second which I bought the instant I finished reading the sample. 

Insta-one-click, of this author. Insta-love for the win!

On Goodreads here: Review of The Man I Love by Suann Laqueur

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