This is one of those books I got from NetGalley because I had seen it on a “books to watch” type of list. As the publication date approached, I wanted to read it so I could post a review in sync with the launch. But then I began to see the book everywhere, and I was pretty sure that my review was not going to matter all that much. But I wanted to read it in spite of the hype. I’ve read other books by Bloom, though my library’s order has gotten a little unwieldy, and those books predate my goodreads and booklikes blogs.
The oft-quoted first line of this book and the intriguing cover provide a sparkling entrance into this tale of an extraordinary, unconventional family. In fact, to call them a family is perhaps overstating the scrappy bunch described here. About halfway through, I decided this book was really the love child of Armistead Maupin and John Irving. I will admit that my secret prude self was a little unnerved by the unsparing descriptions in the first half of the book, and I was not endeared to some of the main characters until I got past that. To be fair, I am not a fan of any kind of explicit scenes in a book. I think I have a pretty good imagination, and the author giving me details most often turns down the excitement for me, which I’m guessing is contrary to their intent. Honestly, I was embarrassed even typing all of that. But there you have it.
In any case, while I found a huge amount of this book improbable, I loved it despite it’s minor flaws. The irony is that it was the minor characters who led me to accept, and finally appreciate the major ones. And when I did begin to really think about this sorry, impossibly messy, bizarre excuse for a family, I realized that I cared about them. When I brushed my teeth in the morning I wondered what absurd scheme they would think of next. When I went to bed at night, I thought about how ridiculously impossible it was that Iris would have even one career as an actress, but I rooted for her anyway, and gloried in her second act. During the day I worried about Eva, who bore most of the burdens in this story, and I prayed for more of those small moments of beauty that seemed to find her along the way. And when I finished I had to admit that it was worth the hype, in it’s sloppy, beautiful, perfectly rendered way. Lucky us.