March 20, 2012

Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodgen (with Book Giveway)

I hated Elegies for the Brokenhearted immediately, on the very first page. So I can't really explain why I persisted with it, since I don't strongly enforce my "give it 30 pages before giving up" policy in such cases, but I DID persist, and soon loved it so much I was skipping computer time to read it, and snapping irritably at children who interrupted me, and thinking about the characters while making dinner.

(photo from Amazon.com)


I can't explain why it worked for me. It has so many things I dislike in a book, starting right away with being written in the second-person singular ("You were such-and-such," "Your father was so-and-so," etc.). The second major issue was that it was in the form of letters to people. (Though this is the very thing that helped with the first issue: I hate being told that _I_ did something I DIDN'T do---but clearly she was talking to someone else.) The third major issue was that the narrator was the dreamy drifter type, which I don't usually find appealing. The fourth major issue was the prose style: two pages in, I said to myself snidely, "A hundred bucks says the word 'lyrical' will be used on the cover." (I won that bet.) The fifth major issue was that it fed right into my mid-life crisis: "WE ALL LIVE MISERABLE POINTLESS SELF-DECEIVING LIVES, AND THEN WE DIEEEEEEEEEEE."

Nevertheless, I loved it. LOVED IT. It took me more than a dozen pages to hit my stride with it, and with each new section (there are five sections, each addressed to a different person) it took a few pages again. The narrator is addressing each of five people in her life who have died; after the first one, I started putting my hand over the birth/death dates at the beginning of each section, because I didn't want the clue of how old the person had been at death.

Normally I struggle with short stories because I get upset when they're over (I like series best: MORE than a whole book, not LESS). This is sort of like short stories because it's five separate "You"s she's writing to, but it's actually a novel: in the background of each person she's writing to, she's writing about how her own life went, and the stories start to tie together. I love stuff like that, where you gradually piece together a bunch of things. I was tempted to start again at the beginning, so that I could fit those earlier parts into the parts I'd patched together since then.

Our library system also has Hello, I Must Be Going by the same author, so I've put in a request for it. (That's a test, for me, of a good book: do I immediately seek out other books by the same author? And in this case I'd barely closed the book before I was at my computer.) If I like that one too, I'll probably order a copy of her third book (A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw) and donate it.

********

Speaking of donating, I have some ad revenue to spend, and I like the idea of using it to make you read something I liked. So I'll buy a paperback copy of this book for one person who wants to try it. I always feel awkward about leaving a comment on a post when I wanted to comment on the content but I DON'T want to enter the giveaway, so let's do it like this: I'll choose one random winner from all comments that MENTION wanting to win a copy. I'll pick someone on Friday the 23rd, probably in the morning sometime.

[Edit 03-23-2012: Winner is StephLove!]

38 comments:

StephLove said...

Sounds interesting plus I have decided to stop reading the book club book I'm reading so I'm not too far ahead when we meet (this club meets for several sessions a book) but I don't WANT to stop reading it so I need something to pull me away from it. Put me in your contest please.

MomQueenBee said...

I, too, would like to be a contestant even though I normally loathe short stories.

Shelly said...

Ooh! That sounds really good. I love books where you slowly figure out how things tie together. Which is the long way to say that I would like to entered in your contest, please!

Oh, that reminds me. I just read Everything Matters!, which I had never heard of until you recommended it, and I really liked it.

RA said...

Ooh, I would love to be entered! I love it when books have an interesting short story-esque structure. Like The Imperfectionists, for example. Thanks for the review! I am checking my library for this book now, anyway...

Holly said...

I'd like to be entered. Your review is intriguing. The title alone makes me think I would hate this book, so it would be interesting to be proven wrong!

Erin said...

I would love to read it! The title alone would typically steer me away, but I'm not suppOsed to judge books that way. (but we all do, right?)

Anna said...

That book does sound very interesting! I would love to win a copy.

Ann Wyse said...

I will read it based on your recommendation! No need to enter me in the contest, however; I see an available copy at the library!

Maggie said...

Yes, I don't normally like short stories or things described as "lyrical" because too often that seems to be an excuse for not having any plot. HOWEVER, because you have recommended it, I would love to give it a try.

-R- said...

I am torn. It sounds like I would not like it. But it sounds like you would not have liked it too, but then you did like it! What to do, what to do. I will enter myself for a chance to win the book. Thanks, Swistle!

Elizabeth said...

I want to read it! I've never even heard of it and it sounds intriguing and everything I've read lately has been terrible, so I am in need of a good book.

Elle said...

I think this is the second time I've heard of this book, and I'm a sucker for the title, so I am hereby officially mentioning that I would not mind winning this contest.

Kate said...

Sounds interesting - especially with your disclaimers (I, too, will likely have issues with the second-person POV and the dreamy drifting narrator and the lyricality, but I'm always up for a book that has me skipping computer time to read. :)

Kate said...

(Which is to say, please enter me in the contest. But just once of course, since I did not mean to naughtily comment twice.)

Kathy said...

I'd love to win a copy!

Jessica said...

The book sounds really interesting! I'd love to have a copy.

Sarah said...

Oh, I want to! Enter the contest, that is.

Stephanie M said...

I'd love to win a copy, I'd love to read it.

wheelmaker said...

Hello, I Must Be Going is good too, and you might be happy that it's written in a more straightforward style. I read it a while ago so I don't remember everything, but I do remember that I liked it and it's one that could be suitable for older teens as well.

KateB said...

I just adore your book reviews. Would love to read the book. Thanks!

anne said...

I'd love to win a copy of this book! The book I'm currently reading is a bore, so I'm ready for something good. And I usually like the letter-style novel. Thanks!

Leeann said...

Count me in, please! I was interested but unsure after reading your review but then I went and read some more reviews on GoodReads and now I'm intrigued!

Thanks!

DawnA said...

Always looking for good book club books. My dilemma is this....do I read the book first and if I like it suggest it for book club or do I suggest it and hope everyone likes it?
dawniawnie (at) aol (dot) com

Emily said...

It doesn't sound like something I would like, either, but I always like to try books when other people end up loving them. I'd like to win a copy. Thanks!

vanessa said...

I would like a copy! I love to read and I am moving so have packed the majority of my books, adn also, I cannot go to the library because, um, I owe them too much money.

Barb said...

What an interesting sounding book! Thanks for the review and the giveaway. I love getting book recommendations and hardly ever read a book without one! (It's just too frustrating to invest the time in a dud).

Anonymous said...

I would love to win a copy and have the chance to read this book. recovering from surgery I have lots of resting reading time. This one sounds quite interesting

Robin said...

I would like to win a copy. I think I would have the same objections you did as you started reading, so I'm interested in how you got from there to LOVE.

Kate said...

I have the same dislike you do for the shortness of short stories, so your review made me intrigued. I'd love to win a copy!

Ms. Molly said...

I love how you said you love a series b/c it's more of a book not less. That is exactly how I feel!

Juliette said...

We are short story feeling twins. But pick me anyway, I want to try it!

Cayt said...

I'd love to win a copy! I really like stories that experiment with form, and I've really enjoyed some second person stuff (I've written some second person stuff, too, but there's second person where the narrator is talking to themself and there's second person where the narrator is talking to someone else, and the second person stuff I write is first person in disguise).

Laura Diniwilk said...

Every single book review reminds me that I still haven't gotten around to Geek Love. I should make a whole "Swistle" shelf in goodreads to keep track of your recommendations (you haven't disappointed me yet). I'd like to win a copy!

Anonymous said...

I would love to win a copy. I've been in a book rut lately and need some new authors. Thanks!

Nikki B said...

This book sounds super interesting - you haven't steered me wrong with a recommendation yet, so I'm on board! I'd like to win a copy.

Kami said...

I would love to read it, I also think I would love receiving real mail from Swistle! Exciting!

Alicia C {sassyberry at juno dot com} said...

I'd love to win a copy, this sounds like the sort of book I tend to enjoy once I've read it, though I rarely CHOOSE them.

Vegas710 (St) said...

Comment form got wonky on me so if this is a repeat please delete it! Pretty please? I hate being that person that keeps posting.
Anyway, I would like to be entered because I can't think of a single collection of short stories that I like but I've always WANTED to like short stories.