Sunday, January 3, 2010

Body Surfing

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is another book I picked up based only on the pitch on the book jacket, without any feedback from anyone I know. This is the story of a woman, Sydney, who, at age twenty nine, is already once divorced and once widowed. She finds herself a job tutoring a high school student, Julie, with whom she strikes up a good friendship. She finds, with her student's family, a sense of belonging. She takes a liking to Julie's father and also develops a romantic attachment with one of her brothers. It looks like this just might be the happy ending Sydney had always wanted and deserved, but fate has other plans.

Anita Shreve has a unique storytelling style, which takes a while to get used to. In places, her narrative does not flow linearly, jumping back and forth in time. She pays close attention to the descriptions of mundane details like the flowers in the garden and the linen on the tables. She also pays a lot of attention to everything that goes on through her characters' minds, whether or not it directly contributes to the story.

Once you get the hang of it, her story flows easily, keeping the pages turning quickly. She gives you characters you may or may not be able to relate to, but ones you care about. She makes you want to find out what happens to them next.

I think this is only the second book I read that was set in places I know and have been to, the first being Five Point Someone. Well, The Sari Shop was set in Amritsar and I've been there too, but I was there only for a few hours and I never went to the bazaars that the author talks about, so I don't think that counts. This book is set mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and I've seen the places mentioned in it. Helps visualize things in my head.

Anita Shreve is apparently the author of more than a dozen bestselling books. This is the first one I read. I'll say I liked it enough to want to try out some of her other work.

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