Thursday, October 8, 2015
I went to the library this week and picked out two non-series books by some of my favorite series authors. (A reminder, I love love love series development...) I figured, I love their series, the writing must be good for their standalone novels, right? I haven't read the other yet (review to come when it's done) but I read How to Start a Fire within maybe 30 hours.
If you aren't familiar, Lisa Lutz wrote a series of really funny mystery books that starts with The Spellman Files. Her characters in that series are in no way "normal" but they are amusing and funny and somewhat insane, and still somehow really easy to relate to.
How to Start a Fire is a standalone novel about three friends (Kate, Anna, & George - for Georgianna) who met in college, are completely different, and yet remain close friends for nearly 30 years. They are not normal in many ways, and some pretty awful things happen to them, and yet some parts of the novel made me laugh out loud.
Before I go much further, you need to know that the story is told in third person, focusing from time to time on each character's thoughts and actions, but every single chapter is set in a different year, from their meeting in 1993 to around 2013, with no rhyme nor reason to the jumping. The "timeline," or lack thereof, really reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, but without the logic behind such jumping around.
This is my big issue with the story. I like the characters fairly well. I'm not sure I understand most of Anna's motivations, but she is interesting. Kate is the most sympathetic to me, and I understand why she does what she does. George is nice enough, but for me remained on the periphery of the story.
I enjoyed the characters, and the plot points would have been fairly interesting if...
I just really, really would have liked the story in order. I was able to figure out fairly well what might have been the big secret that "happened." The jumping around (and I'm a pretty involved reader) just made me mad. I had to keep looking back to try to keep track of whether some other part of the story had happened yet or not. I prefer to read like I'm lost in the story, and this kept pulling me back out of the story and into my life.
Therefore, I can't say much about what happens, because the author wants it to be a secret. I did like the writing for the most part, if it had been sequential. I read it quickly, and was invested. I just don't like the format at all. And... There isn't much resolution. I think I've mentioned it before, but I do much prefer a good solid ending.
If that kind of thing doesn't bother you, this is a good character study type book. It's not a mystery, definitely more of a "coming of age" story, but it's not bad. Just not my favorite set up.