15 September 2009

Trouble, by Kate Christensen

Not as good as The Great Man, but decidedly better than The Epicure's Lament. I think Christensen's strong point is smart, sultry, sassy middle aged women. Her books aren't quite chick lit, in that I tend to think of chick lit as involving annoying, whiny, stereotypical women, and hers tend to throw back tequila shots, maybe some some herb, bed attractive (and sometimes just sorta cute) men and curse a lot. Oh, and eat lots of good food. But there's definitely a kind of guilty pleasure aspect. I can't help but cringe a little bit whenever they discuss aging and appearance, because I try to pretend that I will love myself no matter how many wrinkles I have, and I sure as hell don't want to be self-conscious and wondering whether a guy I'm trying to take home is going to find my nekkid body attractice just because I'm over 40.

Uh... anyways. So Trouble is mostly a kind of character study. The center of the novel is Josie, who in the opening pages realizes she wants a divorce. Josie is a therapist, and there's a bit of an interesting dynamic in terms of her talking to her patients, how she interacts with them, how they reflect her life, etc. But soon she's off to Mexico City to spend some recovery time with one of her best friends, a pop star fleeing the gossip columns. The whole pop star bit is kind of over the top. As is the terrible relationship that Josie and her daughter have. The plot, unfortunately, starts to veer towards the overly melodramatic, but nonetheless, the book is an enjoyable read, simply because Christensen is an interesting, engaging and most importantly, intelligent, writer. It's pop fiction for liberal arts college grads. Thus, the main character finds herself reflecting on political activism, colonialism, etc - the kinds of things I think about! But without going into long, boring analyses of them - they're just sort of thoughts that flash through her mind, in a very true to life fashion.

I also really appreciated the way that she was a slightly neurotic character, as so many of us are, but she wasn't totally defined by her neuroses. And at one particularly interesting point, she realizes that she's read way too much into a certain interaction with someone and totally misunderstood. So there's this nice moment where she's talking to this guy and telling him about various impressions about people, and he sets her straight on a number of things. She then feels like an ass, and tells him so, and he gently tells her that no, she's actually quite perceptive, she just misinterprets some things. It's not a big deal. I found this immensely soothing, because misinterpreting things is something I am both prone to and despise myself for, and it was very calming to be told that it's really not a big deal.

Uh... Yeah. So that's the thing. It's not a great book - again, if you're gonna read anything of hers, I DO recommend The Great Man, which I thought was a lot of fun (though the one male I recommended it to didn't like it at all, so it might be more chick lit-y than I realize). But this one is really not that great, though it is a fairly engaging and enjoyable page turner.

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