Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wreck and Order

Title:  Wreck and Order
Author:  Hannah Tennant-Moore
Publication Information:  Hogarth. 2016. 304 pages.
ISBN:  1101903260 / 978-1101903261

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My father inherited a small fortune when his mother died, and on my twenty-first birthday, he handed me a card with a check inside."

Favorite Quote:  "I think of myself as someone with an unusually high capacity for happiness, just not from the right things."

What to even say about this book except to begin with the conclusion. This is not the book for me, and I am completely not the reader for this book.

The description makes it sound like a memoir-like book in the same vein as Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Here is a young woman on a self-destructive path who travels to Paris and Sri Lanka looking to change her life.  The description, however, fails to mention that Elsie takes a trip to Paris and returns home to an abusive relationship, takes a trip to Sri Lanka and returns home to an abusive relationship, moves to New York only to return to an abusive relationship, and takes yet another trip to Sri Lanka to - you guessed it - return home to an abusive relationship. No development and no change occurs in these trips.

At times, I think perhaps this book is a parody of many memoirs that talk about transformation, particularly as a result of grand journeys. Elsie's lack of change and her self-destructive behavior appears an exaggerated caricature intent on showing that "wherever you go, there you are" and that a new destination does not mean a new you. However, the book has no hint of humor that a parody may encompass; it seems to take itself too seriously to be a satirical commentary. This means that the book becomes a repetitive cycle of Elsie's choices.

Let's talk about Elsie. Unfortunately, I find very little to like about Elsie. Yes, she had a dysfunctional childhood which may elicit pity. However, that is negated by the fact that she is now an adult and continues to pile together one self-destructive decision on top of another. She seems to have unlimited resources from an indulgent but uninvolved parent. His sole purpose in the book seems to be to send her money, which he does at regular intervals. Elsie holds no steady job because she does not have to support herself. Her life work seems to be translating some unknown book about stray cats from French into English.

She is equally untethered in her personal relationships. She returns time and again to a physically abusive boyfriend. Her internal thoughts in the book are disrespectful towards so many of the people she meets along the way. She comes across as self-absorbed and selfish; she doesn't even seem to like herself very much. The book makes no attempt to establish or explain a reason for Elsie's behavior except for one statement that "A psychiatrist would call my bad times depression." Unfortunately, this statement is never developed; I never really find any understanding of or sympathy towards Elsie.

A likable main character is by no means a prerequisite for enjoying a book. It depends on the story itself.  So, let's look at the story told in this book. A main component (if not the main component!) of this story are graphic descriptions of Elsie's sexual encounters - actual ones, imagined ones, dreamt ones, consensual ones, abusive ones, forced ones, and everything in between. That type of book is not the story for me. Added to that are descriptions of drug-induced hazes. Again, not the story for me. Rarely, the book has a description of a place or a character - particularly while Elsie is in Sri Lanka - which hints at hidden potential. Unfortunately, the potential remains well hidden.

From the description, Wreck and Order should have been the book for me. At the end, I am simply not the reader for this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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