The Sunday Salon: Its the same old story

by Rachel Baker on October 5, 2008

Sunday SalonAn occupational hazard of reading for a living is you often read the same books – different titles, different characters, same basic story.  Its a shame really.  I believe all books deserve to be read.  I believe authors probably have a great story to tell, but allow themselves to get pigeonholed into telling a story in a manner already told.  Unfortunately, I can only read the same basic story a couple of times a year.  I guess this is probably why my tastes don’t fit into any one genre of books.  The problem for me though is that I desperately want to enjoy every book I read.  I want to find at least one redeeming quality in a book, and I want to see the author has dared to step foot in a realm different than every other author out there. Sadly, I am not sure we see authors bucking the system often enough. 

I’ve read a few books recently that did nothing for me.  They were too similar to books I’ve already read this year.  I believe the writing of these books are good.  I believe the author did a good job in relaying the story.  Unfortunately, I just wasn’t impressed by the story being told, because there were too many clues figured out by the end first few chapters.

Lola Lemire Tostevin: The Other Sister

I’ve read several books about sisters. I’ve also read several books about looking back over your life at the age of ninety or there abouts and trying to come to terms with a horrible secret. There’s some underlying situation that sort of makes the secret something we as readers can live with, but torments the main character.

The Other Sister, by Lola Lemire Tostevin, is about a woman who moves to an assisted living home, who is reconciling her life with the help of a new male friend, her daughter moving into her lifelong home, and her granddaughter who starts asking questions after finding interesting items in the attic.  The book is reminiscent of The House at Riverton and the Sister, in that both of these books reflect back on the circumstances leading up to the need for a family secret.  Each of these books are disturbing and well written in their own rights, but, the story has been told too many times this year, in my very humble opinion.

In fairness, I think my distaste with The Other Sister was because I saw all the metaphors already, I figured out the story early on and well, there were just no real surprises.  I do wonder though, how I’d feel about The other Sister if maybe I’d waited and read this book next year.

Lauren Groff: The Monsters of Templeton

I think I’ve read too many books about disfunctional family histories to enjoy The Monsters of Templeton right now.  I recognize this particular book is a popular one.  The story is interesting, though vaguely predictable.  The twists and turns are expected and well, there was nothing intriguing for me about the story. The Monsters of Templeton is a story that bounces back and forth between past and present, and frankly, I think its just too much. The main character is an archeological student who puts her studies aside to figure out how her father is.  There is a monster pulled up from the lake, there’s some murders within the family and there’s a whole lot of disfunction in the relationships of how the family tree branches out.  To be fair, I think I had really high hopes and was disappointed.  I expected a gripping, horror story.  I didn’t get it.  From the beginning, I pretty much expected one of a small group of men to be her father, I expected disfunction and I expected her mother’s story was a lie of family preservation.  There was a strange twist in the story when our heroine was pregnant but not really, and her mom found religion.

Strangely, after reading, and enjoying, bizarre stories such as The Almost Moon, one would expect that I’d enjoy the Monsters of Templeton.  This was different though – bizarre, yes, coherent, no.  The twists and turns just didn’t come together well.  I felt the same way with Stephen Carter’s, New England White – it was well-written, but I guess I just didn’t get the attraction.

Mike Monahan: Barracuda

I read this book awhile ago, and have done my best to stay away from reviewing it, but its a great example of writing the same story as a bestselling author.  The problem with this book for me, was it was too close to the Clive Cussler books.  Now, I love Clive Cussler.  I love the adventure, I love the excitement.  Barracuda has this.  BUT, if I want murder and corporate crime solving divers in the oceans and reefs of the world, I’m sticking with my buddy, Clive.  Sorry, but that’s just how it is.  Barracuda just wasn’t inventive enough for me.

Maybe I’m a bit too critical.  Maybe I expect too much. I don’t know.  The world is changing though.  The great writers examine why we behave as we do, and why we make the choices we do in tough situations. They look at the old stories and ask themselves, what would happen if the hero or heroine did this instead – how would the story change?  They branch out of third person points of view and truly begin to examine the reasons for human behavior in our changing world.  I want to see stories that analyze the driving forces in today’s modern world, causing the characters to behave in ways our grandparents probably would have been appalled by.

I guess I should apologize for my rant.  I’m just tired of the same old story, when I know there are people way more talented than I who can weave a fantastic fictional story that makes me want to really look at how we are reacting to the world today.

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