Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: September 30, 2012
I am expressing my view after reading because of some of the horrible ratings this book received and the reviews written to justify it. Look, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but don't just write--and I'm paraphrasing here--"It's not Harry Potter" and expect me to leave it at that.
Five stars because all those things people hate about it is what I love about it.
To appreciate this book, you have to read it through un-biased eyes while taking off your Harry Potter after-glow goggles. This is not the Harry Potter series! There is no definitive good vs. evil battle—unless you consider the battle to overcome addiction and to escape repeating past mistakes—and no hero/heroine to cling to. No, this book is dark, sad, and raw but through that grim window there is a ray of hope.
Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. It's a book about "normal" everyday people dealing with everyday issues whist going about their lives in a small town. The author deals with subjects and issues like relationships, neglect, death, abuse, sex, love, poverty, socioeconomic gap, prejudice, racism, rape, drugs and so forth. In a nutshell, this book is like a mini A Song of Fire and Ice (in terms of the first three/four books) without the gratuitous fornication, meandering plot and burdensome details (referring to the fifth. NOTE: I read a book (referring to ASoFI here) per day, finishing it before dawn—sometime around three to four in the morning) .
This book opened with the death of a councilman and (sorta) focuses on the consequences of his premature death. Know this: although Barry Fairbrother's death was the catalyst that kick-started the events in this book, one might say—sooner or later—something was bound to happen. His death was the premise—a means to an end. The secrets and anger have been brewing in a kettle of resentment, racism, narrow-mindedness with a dash of denial upon the fire of abuse for many years.
The characters are vile but they are also the product of their environment. Barry was trying to change their outlook but everything fell apart when he died. Vivid characters that stay in your mind even after you are done reading the book. You want to know more about them.
Most of the characters are steeped in their prejudices and nothing was going to change that. Heck, the events that occurred did nothing but reinforce their pig-headed way of seeing the world.
They are realistic and I was fascinated by this quality. Go to the supermarket and I assure you, you will meet a Barry, Krystal, Arf, Fats, Howard, Gavin, Shirley, Sukhvinder or Robbie. They are diverse and they try to live life the only way they know how to. Does this make it right? No. But people are flawed. Does it make them like-able? No. But you cannot take one situation and apply it to the whole, like Howard was doing with the Fields. Because of his own prejudice towards others, he was blind to the faults in himself. He was a direct reflection of the Fielders he so despised. He claimed to be a self-made businessman but did not acknowledge the sacrifices his mother had to make to ensure his success. He felt the Fielders were parasitic junkies sucking the economy dry but does not realize the burden his obesity places on the economy.
I love how the characters' lives interweave. The characters kept hurting each other without pausing to think about the feelings of the other person. Sometimes, they hurt that person deliberately.
This book is honest in its critique of society. It does not try to impress but states its side of the argument and departs, but it does elicit a response. It's highlights how wrong a world is to be so self-obsessed that it fails to lift up the lest amongst us. Take Krystal, everyone knew about her but nobody truly knew her. She could have been helped but embroiled in politics, small town life, self consciousness and hubris- no one does enough.
Most say this book is a character study, I'm apt to agree.
Definitely my cup of tea when I need to be brought back to planet earth: dark and bitter. 5/5
Only if you are able to leave your Harry Potter goggles at home and focus on this work as a stand-alone. Read for the story, not because of the author's name slapped on the cover. That said, J.K. Rowling is one amazing author. I didn't just read her book, I experienced it.