07 August 2014

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, by Mira Jacob

I got this as a GOODREADS GIVEAWAY. Which was awesome -- I will totally trade a review for a book. Keep 'em coming.

Book clubs are going to devour this one. Multi-generational, moving immigrant story? Yeah.

Which is not to say it's not a good book. Jacob has a fantastic ear for dialogue, and her characters are amazingly well realized. It's been a long time since a work of fiction has made me cry. I cared about these people. I grew extremely attached to them and their flaws and foibles, and I was very invested in what was going to happen to them.

...but that was not enough to prevent me from noticing that what was happening to them would have benefited from the wisdom of an editor who could rein it in a bit. The book is a fast read, but it is also 500 pages, and it would have been better if it were 300. There are 5 major plotlines, and while they add some depth to the characters, they also converge in ways that make you aware of just how neatly everything is coming together. Especially because most of them get wrapped up in the last 30 pages. I actually started to wonder if I had been given a faulty copy as I approached the end because I couldn't see how on earth it could conclude in so little space. It was really irritating, after having stuck with the story for 480 pages, to be whisked out of it in such a fashion.

More frustrating was the novel's tendency to veer towards the rom-com-esque; simplified solutions and an excess of sentimentality. Do we need a scene with that character binge drinking in order to understand how upset she is, or is it just that such scenes are easy shorthand to express trauma (does she really need to be extra traumatized in the first place)? Is a romance plot really necessary, or is a happy ending possible without one? So many things about this book are truly creative and unique, making it all the more disappointing when it slouches into stock plot devices.

Nonetheless -- it's a charming, pleasant book. Give the characters 150 pages and they will almost certainly win you over, even if you do roll your eyes from time to time. And I will definitely look forward to seeing what Mira Jacob does next.

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