Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman & Self-Portrait With Boy Rachel Lyon

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Del Rey, 2018
367 pages. Hardcover.

What drew me to this book was the main premise of a woman with a medical condition that basically puts her into a death-like coma at unpredictable intervals, and this idea did end up being one that was explored thoroughly, both by Carol and her late friend John Bowie. I don't read an abundance of Western books, but I was looking forward to that being the setting for this book, and I think Malerman made that aspect fit really well with the story. Malerman's writing style also really shines in this book, as he does a wonderful job of capturing the mix of emotions that speed through his characters' heads as they move through the story. Unbury Carol is a slow-moving, very character-focused sort of book that builds up to a a clever ending.

I was honestly just disappointed with this book in general. There wasn't anything overly bad about it, but it was just.. lacking. There wasn't really much of a plot there and I feel like the 'plot' that was there could have all been wrapped up in about a hundred pages or so. There were characters that didn't feel like they needed to be there and I felt that the concept I was so excited for was lost somewhere in the mix. I think a big problem I also had was that there never really seemed to be a strong enough motivation for Dwight to want to kill his wife. There was also a weird sense of urgency that seemed to pop out of nowhere and just didn't quite fit.

Overall, I'm mixed on this one. I enjoyed aspects of this book, but I also consistently wondered why I was reading this and what the point was. I've decided to go with three stars for this one.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon
Scribner, 2018
376 pages. Hardcover.

Self-Portrait with Boy is an unassuming novel that packs a huge punch in ways that were much different than I expected. Briefly, this story tells of Lu Rile, a young aspiring photographer who accidentally captures an image of her upstairs neighbor's young son falling to his death through her window while taking her own photograph. Although this premise is what drew me to this book and does provide an overarching storyline, this is not, surprisingly, the main focus of this book at many times. Lu is such a relatable character in some ways, and although I couldn't connect with her on major lifestyle aspects, there were so many sections that I found myself marking because I just felt like she was reading my own personal thoughts about things. This is an extremely quick read, both because it is written very simply, but also because it is hard to put down. This is one of those literary novels that doesn't use quotation marks, and this seemed to only make the story go quicker and I really liked how it added to the somewhat depressing and fatigued nature of the story.

The only major dislike I had was that this book was not what I was expecting. The issue of Lu capturing a photograph of her upstairs neighbor's son was indeed a huge part of this book, but there was so much more in this story than just that. This book covers a small chunk of life about living as a rather destitute artist in early '90s Brooklyn, something that I didn't expect--though I did very much enjoy it. There was also a small, recurring storyline about a ghost that just didn't make much sense to me, though it did end up being important at the end of the story.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. As a warning: it's incredibly bleak. I definitely found myself feeling a bit ore depressed than usual while reading this book, so just keep that in mind if you're sensitive to books that seem to bleed into your own life. Otherwise, I would absolutely recommend this book for the variety of topics it delves into. Four stars!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

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  1. Great reviews! I was on the fence about reading Unbury Carol, but I read one of the author’s other books and was very underwhelmed. I think I’ll be skipping Unbury Carol.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. That's disappointing to hear about Unbury Carol. Like AJ, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read that one or not, but now that I've read several mixed reviews, I think I'm going to pass. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

  3. I am not regretting my decision to DNF Unbury Carol :)