Monday, July 22, 2013

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The main characters in this book definitely lived up to the name - the Interestings.  This is the name 6 teenagers adopted for themselves while spending the summer at an arts based camp in the Berkshires.  Though we hear the story of all 6 kids, arguably the main characters is Jules, an awkward and shy girl from Long Island who has just lost her father to cancer and who is suddenly adopted by a more sophisticated crowd from Manhattan.  There is Ash, the beautiful sensitive girl who becomes her life long friend, Ash's brother Goodman handsome but already showing the signs of the troubled life he'll live, Ethan, at 15 already a gifted animator who loves Jules but accepts her friendship when she tells him the attraction is not mutual, Jonah a gay musician, the son of a famous folk singer who is hiding a troubled past, and Cathy an aspiring dancer who lacks a dancer's body.  Cathy is the least developed character but an incident between her and Goodman in their late teens changes the course of all 6 lives.

The book follows the characters from the three years they spend at summer camp through to middle age.  Ethan and Ash marry, he becomes wildly successful and extremely rich.  She also remains in the arts, directing plays with a feminist bent.  Jules abandons her dreams of becoming a comic actress and instead becomes a mildly successful therapist - she marries an ultrasound technician with a history of depression and spends her life envying her best friends.  Jonah comes out of the closet but is unable to sustain meaningful relationships until he deals with the incidents in his past - that he eventually describes to Ethan but no one else.  I will leave Goodman and Cathy's futures undescribed so as not to remove the suspense.

Each of the characters, though severely flawed, is oddly sympathetic, perhaps because Wolitzer develops them as "real", believable people.  Their lives are not particularly charmed though not unusually tragic either - they are just human.

Sometimes the book seems a bit long but overall it's a great read - I kept turning the pages as I really cared about what happened to these people.

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