Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A vow and a review

Book: Tinderbox
Author: Lisa Gornick
Published: 2013 (Sarah Crichton Books)
Pages: 299

I am weak. I am a weak, weak bibliophile with too much access to the library’s New Arrivals blog posts and too much fun money left on my old debit card and too much time on my lunch break to avoid going on an Amazon book ordering spree of I’m not even going to tell you it’s embarrassing.

But! No more. I am taking a vow. A VOW, DAMMIT. The next South Carolina Book Festival is May 16 – 18, 2014. It's an excellent time of year to hunker down into personal writing and media-consuming projects, and I promise I won’t buy or library-borrow another volume until I am done with all of these by the first writing class that I never get to go to at the book festival because why are they all on Friday at times when I’m still in work and/or cost $35 extra?

Point being, this is a new addition to the pile, and it was pretty good. It’s ostensibly about this “crazy” refuge a lady takes in as a maid when her son and grandson and daughter-in-law come to live with her and wrecks their shit up. But really, those quotes are very well earned because the maid doesn’t seem crazy like, at all. She spontaneously talks about her bad childhood to the lady – who is a psychiatrist. She acts aloof to the son – when she finds his porn stash. Well, duh. Those seem like natural reactions to me. And those are cited as the biggest examples and are supposed to be the whole reason why she sets their house on fire. Yeah.
I think the problem is we get into everybody’s head except hers, and she’s the one that’s supposed to be the most volatile. The family is much more interesting, with the son who’s increasingly obsessed with his porn stash until it finally drives him to disastrous distraction from his kid, the daughter-in-law who fled her country intending to come back and make a difference but instead found herself tangled in feelings she can’t undo, the daughter who seems to love everyone and food better than herself (…I know, but it’s written way more nuanced than that, at least until she grieves herself skinny and finds her happy ending that they linger on just a touch too long).

The whole tinderbox metaphor is jammed in there too forcefully, too, but like I said, the family’s pretty interesting, and…sigh, I don’t know. It’s hard to admit defeat with a brand-new full-priced book. Maybe this time, though. Maybe.   

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