Saturday, May 3, 2008

Julie's Review: The Rest of Her Life

Summary: Moriarty's follow-up to book-group favorite The Center of Everything again explores a tense, fragile mother-daughter relationship, this time finding sharper edges where personal history and parenting meet. Now a junior high school English teacher married to a college professor, Leigh has spent much of her adult life trying to distance herself from her dysfunctional childhood. Raising their two children in a small, safe Kansas town not far from where Leigh and her troubled sister, Pam, were raised by their single mother, Leigh finds her good fortune still somewhat empty. Daughter Kara, 18 and a high school senior, is distant; sensitive younger son Justin is unpopular; Leigh can't seem to reach either—Kara in particular sees Leigh (rightly) as self-absorbed. When Kara accidentally hits and kills another high school girl with the family's car, Leigh is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her daughter, her resentment toward her husband (who understands Kara better) and her long-buried angst about her own neglectful mother. The intriguing supporting characters are limited by not-very-likable Leigh's POV, but Moriarty effectively conveys Leigh's longing for escape and wariness of reckoning. ~amazon.com/Publisher's Weekly

Review: I was expecting a lot going into this book. Heck Jodi Picoult raved about The Rest of Her Life and you all know how much I like her and I loved her first book CENTER OF EVERYTHING, THE. So needless to say my expectations were high, only be severely let down. The premise seemed good: mother-daughter relationship on the outs, daughter gets into an accident and the stress this puts on the family. My first major problem with the book was that it was told from only one point of view; Leigh, the mom. In a story like this I think it it almost always better told from at least 2 points of view, maybe even three. The second problem with this book is that Leigh isn't even likable. She's bitter and angry and frankly jealous of her own daughter. We see how Leigh grew up with her mom and sister Pam and no dad in flashbacks that take up a decent amount of the books chapters. Frankly, I was more interested in the here and now, not in why Leigh was the way she is. Very little of the book was actually spent on the accident and how it would affect the daughter Kara's life. We only saw and got to know Kara through Leigh's eyes and even then I don't feel like I got a good sense of who she was.

I never related to how Leigh was so much more concerned about the grieving mom than her own daughter. Sure, I would feel absolutely horrible and would want to convey that but the way Leigh goes about it is wrong and makes her even more unlikeable. I would want to do anything and everything in my power to help my daughter if God forbid something like this happened to her. She becomes almost obsessed with the mom of the girl who died in the accident.

The one view of the mother would have worked better if she was at all likable. I understand why she was bitter and angry but many people have the same or worse childhood as she did and learned how to be happy. She was a very depressing main character to have the story told through her eyes.

I would highly recommend reading CENTER OF EVERYTHING, THE for a great first novel by Ms. Moriarty but I would definitely skip this one. In the end, I'm not even sure the title is appropriate.

I will be curious to see what subject Ms. Moriarty tackles in her next book but I might hesitate to buy it this time.

Final Take: 2.5/5

3 comments :

Stephanie May 4, 2008 at 10:25 PM  

That's a bummer. I too enjoyed The Center of Everything but will probably skip this one.

Lauren May 18, 2008 at 11:15 PM  

I know someone that has given this rave reviews. It's interesting to get a different perspective.

heather (errantdreams) May 21, 2008 at 10:37 AM  

It's tough to write a book with an annoying or unlikeable narrator. Definitely not a task for the faint of heart to attempt---most of the time it just doesn't come out right. I can understand why people try it, though, as it's amazing when it works.

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