After having achieved some degree of acclaim with his first novel, Jacob Finch Donner has been finding it a challenge, to say the least, to hit the target with that follow-up one. Not that he hasn’t tried, of course. He has had a couple of feeble attempts, but even he knows they were not worthy of much attention. So, to make ends meet, he’s been doing what he can – and for writers, that translates to teaching writing, which he is doing currently at a small, run-down, third-tier program in Vermont, as an adjunct. It is here where Donner has a brief exchange of ideas with an arrogant, petulant student who will forever change the course of Donner’s life – for better and for worse.
While I found this book to be engaging for most of the way through, with a tone that was at once cynical and amusing, it was overall a bit disappointing. The narrative did achieve some unpredictability, but it was riddled with conspicuous details and a singular plot line that just led to one possible conclusion. The twists were not as “twisty” as I’d hoped for.
Even the characters were a bit milquetoast. The main character, Jacob, was likable – messy, insecure and vulnerable – but we really don’t know very much about him. We have little backstory on him and do not really develop a deep emotional attachment to him. We feel even less about Anna, the woman he marries, and so do not get to like her all that much before we decide we may not.
I will say that I was entertained for about the first 60% of the novel, but it definitely fell short of my expectations. Worth it? Not sure…