on Dec. 28, 2010 :
Read it for the Journey
This is a literary novel in the truest sense. Even now, a month after I read it, I find myself thinking about the characters and wondering about their possible future lives. The author is great at developing even the incidental people in her story, making all of them very real. What's unusual is that she gives at least two perspectives to each scene, so we learn how differently two people can experience exactly the same events, how they see them based on who they are.
Through situations and thoughts, the author tells the story of two people in a long distance relationship who are forced by their long-term goals to be apart with very little contact for 15 months. It's a classic love triangle, or would be if the two men would ever get the chance to meet, but they don't. There's very little question about the eventual outcome. Elizabeth is in college with all the attendant pressures that someone with ambition would experience. Even though the story is set in the 1960s, it could be in any time period, as everything is just as valid today. We still fall in love, cram for exams, and lie to ourselves, after all.
Dvorkin puts the relationship between Elizabeth, her lover Brian, and her boyfriend Alan under a discerning microscope to show what can happen when good people with the best intentions are pushed too far. I think anyone can relate to what the pressure cooker of loneliness and need can do to a passionate person. The story is bittersweet and memorable. There's some earth-moving sex and a great claw-foot bathtub. There is a wonderful scene in a jewelry store which shows the author's love for and knowledge of gems and minerals, and one in a laundromat that's downright creepy!
Former partners in the dance of life appear just in time to raise the tension even higher. I found myself alternately sympathizing, then completely frustrated with Brian, her naive yet sensitive and caring lover.
By the end of this entertaining and thought-provoking story, the main character, Elizabeth, has had to strip herself emotionally naked and is unapologetic about her choices. Her story forced me to do the same.
For myself, a good book is one that makes me think and feel long after I turn the last page. Dvorkin's book does that. Here, hopes and dreams meet stark reality, and everyone must grow and move on and deal with the consequences. I highly recommend this book.
(reviewed 20 days after purchase)
on Sep. 25, 2010 :
This is truly a literary masterpiece. I've read bestsellers that didn't begin to make me feel so many emotions and empathy for the characters as this work of art does. I'm a man, but due to certain circumstances in my own life, many of the situations that the main female character finds herself in seem wrenchingly familiar to me. The presentation of Elizabeth's relationship with her family is heartbreaking; you really feel her pain and frustration at always coming in second-best to her younger sister. This is the gripping story of a young and beautiful woman caught between the attention of two men with very different backgrounds, needs, expectations, and views of the world as she struggles to maintain her own identity, get an education, and move on with her life after a difficult and challenging childhood.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)