Thursday, July 1, 2010

Plot Problems

Once in a while I come across a book that really, really doesn't sit with me.  That's the best way I can put it.  A few months ago, I likened it to eating a meal that tasted good while you were eating it, but then afterwards, the pit in your stomach feels heavier and heavier.  Sometimes even as you're eating the meal, you feel a pit topsy turvy about it.

That's how I felt as I read Shades of Morning, a new book published by Marlo Schalesky.

I struggle when I need to be honest and give a negative review as is the case with this book.  The reasons I agreed to read this book are very odd.  The main character's name is the same my hometown.  The author's husband's name is the same as my brother's.  She lives in CA and the book was being published on my birthday.  Honestly, when I got the notice to review this book, I thought it was a joke!  Too many funny coincidences!  Due to the number of coincidences, I decided to read this book.

I think this review will be easier if I break it down:

Storyline:  The storyline is that a 15 year old boy with Down's Syndrome has just lost his mother and is being sent to live with his aunt.  The aunt left town 15 years ago and left her sister and boyfriend (who had left town and she didn't know if he was coming back).  The boy arrives and throws the sister's life into chaos, but she adjusts and learns a lot about life and herself in the process.

Writing:  The writing is good and easy to read.  Pretty descriptive on some things.  You can tell that the main character has a hard shell and some parts are very sad and heartbreaking to read.

Plot:  The plot is where my concerns about this book lie.  There is a twist at the end that doesn't work.  It's crucial to the plot, too.  I looked back and reread the beginning to see if I had misread something into the story, but I hadn't.  There are some details at the end that are implausible and very unrealistic as well.  The twist at the end made me feel deceived and manipulated.  That's the best way I can put it.  You know when someone convinces you of something only to tell you that it's not true?  That's how it felt.  I don't like that feeling.  It makes me feel manipulated.  The twist at the end could also be very disheartening to a reader if you or someone you know has Down's Sydrome. The message could be that life is easier or more valuable or better if one does not have Down's Sydrome or that your child does not. 

It is very difficult for me to know how to write about this book because at the end, the author writes a thank you to her editor for helping "make this book more of what God envisioned it to be." (from the Acknowledgements).  I even like the Reader's Guide at the end. 

So, am I writing negatively about something that God inspired?  Is this a great book and I'm missing it?  Should a Christian Inspirational Fiction book be held to the same standards as any other book?  Should all elements of the plot work together and be believable? 

I do know that God encouraged me through this book, yet I still wouldn't recommend it.  I do think that the plot of a Christian book should be plausible.  For a book to be great, I think you need both wonderful writing and a wonderful, well executed plot where the pieces all fit together--not where your trying to cram a piece into a space that it wasn't made for.  That is what it felt like at the end.  Several pieces were trying to be put into a space in the puzzle that they weren't made for.

And I want to add one last caution, because of how the ending could be construed, I wouldn't encourage someone with a child with Downs Syndrome to read this book. 

Please note that I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review by Waterbrook/Multnomah.

If you are interested in reading other reviews on Amazon, this is the link for the book:    

No comments: