Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Almost Moon

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is a disappointing and overrated book. Imagine my pleasure and delight (I always like to feel justified) when I read several reviews (The New York Times Sunday Book Review and USA Today) absolutely trashing her latest book The Almost Moon. However, Almost Moon sounded so bad that I just had to find out how bad it is for myself.

First, do not read this book. The protagonist (if I dare use that word), Helen, kills her mother. I am not giving away any plot details since Helen announces the murder in the book’s first sentence.

I am not sure what Sebold intends with Helen and her plot. Are we meant to sympathize with her? Should we feel murder is justified because her mother was not nurturing? Or is the book intended to be a glimpse inside the mind of a murderer? I suspect the first. However, I have absolutely no sympathy for Helen.

The rest of the book is a mishmash of events from Helen’s life: meeting her husband, divorcing her husband, the death of a neighbor. All these episodes, I’m sure, are meant to illuminate Helen’s psyche. Personally, they just leave me bored.

Sebold seems to delight in shocking her reader. Helen is a murderer, she uses the “f”-word as if it is sexy, she seduces her best friend’s son. Yet none of these actions is really shocking. Instead, they read like clichés.

Like I said, do not read this book. But I will also say it was not as terrible as the book reviews made it out to be. Or maybe it is, but reading the reviews took away much of the pleasure of discovering for myself how earth-shakingly awful the book really is.

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