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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Winner of the National Book Award

Amazing how school, housework, and my damn wiener kids take up all my time. I finished Jincy Willett's Winner of the National Book Award over a week ago, and I have not had time to put together a post about the book (which I really enjoyed). (And I finished Northanger Abbey last night, so I am way behind.) So I will make two points:

1. Just as all the cover blurbs say, this book is funny, funny enough to make me laugh out loud on the train. But what they don't tell you is that the book is also downright scary. Willett so effectively portrayed a sociopathic, abusive man that I felt actual dread while reading the book, waiting to see what he would do next.

2. Her characters, particularly the two sisters who are the heart of the book, were marvelous. They were so much more than the hypersexual "bad" sister and the intellectual "good" sister. Abigail was no pathetic woman relying on men for approval; Willett forces one to see her genuine sensuality and love of life give her an integrity of character one would not otherwise expect. Even when she she falls into the thrall of the aforementioned sociopath, their relationship is not simply one of abuser and abusee, but something far more complex (as is Abigail herself). And indeed, by the end, it becomes apparent that Abigail is much stronger and more self-aware than people (including the readers) give her credit for -- and not in the "victim overcomes her abuser" way that Willett so brilliantly lampoons.

Dorcas, too, is wonderful. She narrates the book, and she recognizes the danger the sociopath poses right away. But she both fails and stands by her sister in unexpected ways, which adds depth to her character. I've read many books where the intellectual narrator is undone by his flaws; Dorcas was refreshing in that she was well aware of those flaws, and she coped with her failures. Unlike those other characters, her failures never bring her down or humiliate her permanently in some awful way. She seems to realize that her mistakes, and the emotions she could not control, are simply part of life. She does not wallow, and that makes her so much more likeable than the other characters.

I don't think I have done the book justice.

1 comment:

  1. I didnt even think of freezer paper. Now I wonder if my printer will eat that also...hmmm.