|Way To Go|
I really wanted this book to be as great as it could be with such a fantastic premise. A boy named Neil, growing up in his funeral director/drunken father's house getting older and getting over it. The novel starts off with this really alluring premise of death being binding and morbidly funny. The imagery hints at deeper issues and foreshadows major events and movements in Neil's life. I was excited when I started the book because of these great insights into Neil's frustrations with his life and his general outlook while he dealt with bullies and girls.
Unfortunately, right when the story was supposed to take off (when Neil takes off), it sort of fades out for me. Characters, especially women, were underdeveloped and stereotyped in a way that became harder and harder to relate to and believe in. When at first new characters were introduced, I felt a sort of Hemmingway-esque quiet to their personalities. That sense of not having to know all about them because the story would tell. But as each new character came in and remained flat, I felt jaded not knowing anything about them and having it be more of a ‘ok, put the gay guy here, and the slutty girl there…', and so on. What we already knew about this story and predicted from the first hint was, Neil is going to make funerals and death exciting, weird, crazy, and freaky. He's going to be avant-garde and innovative. So we get that idea, but rather than developing the underlying lives and characters, and scenes, the author just repeats one crazy funeral idea or casket after another. And it gets a little boring. And meanwhile, a very Hollywood and predictable story starts to trail behind.
Making death a circus and a party, and making it more about freedom and take offs rather than about dirges and prayers is really beautiful. Unfortunately, what could have been a really original story turns into a lot of repetition to make the point of this, which we get from the first try. And the ending feels more like it was about making that same point and wrapping it up with a few obvious twists (one being Neil, the independent businessman versus the big bad corporation). The point? Neil could change the way people looked at death. But it probably would have been better to develop the people and stories a little more rather than one example after another of the same thing: Neil's crazy work.
Even though this review sounds very negative, and I was pretty disappointed, I really do love the start of this book, and the idea. Keep in mind, this book is sort of correlated to my life in a sense, as part of my job is to work with people who are dying and help them plan for it. So maybe I already knew too much and this is why I felt a little bored? Either way, It is really original and thoughtful. I still look forward to seeing how the author's future work progresses.
- Amanda Spadaccini | 2004-09-07