A great book I can’t recommend

When a book makes me cry, and I confess that it doesn’t happen very often – probably because as a storyteller I’m too aware that I’m reading a story that isn’t real – I know I’m under the spell of a master writer, and that the story will stay within my being long after I’ve read it. (Note: This is especially true if that book involves a dog that dies. I was brought to traumatized sobs after reading Old Yeller #neveragain as an adolescent and I still tear up when I think of The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I read long after reaching adulthood and still wept like baby.)

Usually when I read a book that makes me cry – when the characters are so real that their troubles seem just as real – I recommend it right and left. As in, “You’ve GOT to read this book!”

I was emotionally and deliciously ruined by reading The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s not-Hogwart’s book for adults. She had me loving every flawed character so much that I wanted to hold each one close – and there many in this ensemble cast – and tell them, “I see your pain. I see where it hurts, where no one else does.”

But I can’t recommend it.

This is not a Harry Potter book. I heard the voice of Harry Potter’s creator – that devastatingly skilled voice – and I felt again I was in the presence of a demigod of the art of story. But I repeat, this is not a Harry Potter book.

I admit I have a meter that bends toward not-so-raw content. I don’t like excessive profanity in a book – lots of it here – nor explicit bedroom stuff – too descriptive in these pages for me. I listened to this novel on audio (The narrator is amazing. Truly. I’ve never listened to an audio book featuring an extensive mixed-gender cast that was as brilliantly presented as this one, with the possible exception of Louise Penny’s narrator) so the language was perhaps even more raw to me because I was hearing it. And I pressed the forward button a couple times when the sexual content was too graphic.

To each his or her own, of course, but too much of anything is too much.

And yet the characters, the premise, the richness of the rest of the prose. The emotional impact. This story was unforgettable. I will remember it always. But I will always remember the excess, too.

It is an amazing book. A magnificent five-star story that I cannot recommend.

Make of that what you will.

I am still trying to figure that out myself. Would love to hear your thoughts…

A movie has been made, a fact I was unaware of until this morning. Here is the trailer. It looks like the film version has muddled with plot -as film versions of books often do – but here is the trailer if you want to take a peek:

Author: Susan

This post has 9 Comments

  1. Jeanette Morris on November 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    My thoughts are appreciative of your candid and authentic review. I also relish reading the works of master storytellers and wordsmiths. But cringe when what is for me unnecessary language or graphic sex or violence intrude. A great example of this was the film Hacksaw Ridge. I mean, what an incredible story! But the battle scenes forced me to close my eyes. I almost left the theater as it was just too much bloodshed. So, I appreciate knowing the best and worst of this book (or any book) so I won’t be surprised in a bad way when or if I choose to read it. Thanks, Susan.

  2. Melissa Gray on November 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I too do not enjoy and avoid books with graphic sex, profanity and vulgar language (the F bomb is so overused-get a new word, people!). The English language overflows with words that can convey meaning for any situation or description, a true wordsmith does not depend on the shock value or trendiness of certain words. C.S. Lewis was the Master- the first time I read the Narnia books aloud with my young son, I was in awe of his ability to use the English language in a manner I had never experienced. Life is too short for poorly written books!

  3. Susan on November 8, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    I agree, Melissa. I realize the language she used is probably exactly how those characters who spoke it — if they were real– but I don’t have to read everything they would say, if half of it is profane.

  4. Jana on November 13, 2017 at 4:22 am

    Susan, I might read this, but it will be with some page flipping. I have learned to skip the parts that fill my mind with unnecessary images and words, because I can still get the gist of the story. Thank you for the warning!

  5. Amy on January 22, 2018 at 4:17 am

    Hello Susan. I just finished your new book As Bright as Heaven. I chose this for my first ever Book of the Month Club pick and did so thinking and hoping it would be a “clean” read. Not only was it a good clean read, it was a beautiful story in a time of great pain. Of course I decided to look you up to see what other types of books you have written and found this blog post. I too, really do not enjoy a book with extreme profanity, explicit sexual content or graphic violence. Therefore, I tend not to like many of the more modern books of today. Case in point, The Nest by Cynthia Sweeney which I read for an online book club. Good gracious. If I am required to skip more pages than the pages I’ve read, then it isn’t worth my time. So, my point is that I thank you for sharing your opinion about a book of an extremely famous author. Some stories warrant a vocabulary or description, however, there are so many ways I would think that one could write and still leave the impact without shattering the vision. More importantly thank you for writing a book that conveyed suffering, heartache, loss, forgiveness and hope while remaining clean. Best wishes!

  6. Susan on February 20, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you so very much your kind comments, Amy. I am so very glad you liked it!! I know what you mean about some books being too raw. I’m glad this one met you in style and in content. Grateful!

  7. Susan on February 20, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    You’re welcome!

  8. Susan on February 20, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Well said, Melissa!

  9. Susan on February 20, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    You’re welcome!

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