Friday, December 15, 2017

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

Title:  The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs
Author:  Janet Peery
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2017. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1250125081 / 978-1250125088

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Even a hundred years past the town's founding a visitor to Amicus might guess it had been laid out by rival drunks."

Favorite Quote:  "For most of her life she had yielded to the will of others, she had done what others wanted, but now it was her turn to be obstinate and she resolved to enjoy it."

Abel, Hattie, Doro, Jesse, ClairBell, Gideon, and Billy are the Campbell family now. There was also Nick, but sadly he died in his twenties of a heart condition. Abel - the ailing father, the retired judge - continues to judge and control his children. Hattie - seemingly meek next to her husband's control - enables her children's behaviors.

The Campbell children all face their own problems, many of them revolving around addictive behaviors. Abel and Hattie in their decades of marriage have gotten used to the "scandals" surrounding their children, through marriages, divorces, addictions, and confrontations with the law.

The only acknowledged drug addict in the midst is Billy. He is ill and not expected to live long. He is also an addict, has been for a long while. This has led to brushes with the law and confrontations with his family. After one particular episode that begins at Abel's birthday dinner, the other Campbell siblings plan an intervention while continuing on their own addictive paths. So begins the plot of this book. However, this is not really a plot driven book. It is more about the characters, their individual struggles, and the relationships.

This book sets the stage to be the story of a dysfunctional family set in fictional small town of Amicus, Kansas. The book description states, "With knowing humor ... reveals a family at its best and worst, with old wounds and new, its fractures and feuds, and yet its unbreakable bonds." Unfortunately, the humor escapes me. This is not a happy or a humorous book. This is a serious, sad look at the damage addictive behaviors - physical and psychological - cause to the individual and those around them.

Stories of dysfunction and struggles against oneself have the potential to be powerful ones. Neither the character nor the topics have be likable to create a powerful message in a book. Unfortunately, this book has the unlikable characters, but the power of the message does not quite reach me.

Maybe, it's because all members of the family present these behaviors. Maybe, it's because the characters are all older in their forties and fifties, still controlled by their parents and still vying for parental approval and sounding like they are so much younger than their ages would suggest. Maybe, it's because those are the aspects of their characters developed. Maybe, it's because the individual struggles get overshadowed by the competition and jealousies among the siblings. Maybe, it's because, as a reader, I cannot find anything to relate to in these characters. I don't quite know. I can't quite determine the exact reason why the book does not engage me, but sadly it does not.

Eventually, the book becomes Hattie's story and her emergence in her own life. Unfortunately, this development and evolution comes too late in the book. The response to and the caring - or lack thereof - for these characters develops long before that point. Although the change in her is interesting, at that point, I am done with the book.

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

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