As I have mentioned in previous posts I have been reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer for an English-language book club that meets every month in Berlin. I’d never heard of this book before I saw it was this month’s selection for the book club, nor had I heard of Meg Wolitzer but I decided to give it a try. I first started the book and thought to myself, I can’t read this, these characters are so obnoxious. However, the characters definitely grow on you as you learn more about them and overall I quite enjoyed the book. It’s not my usual genre, murder mysteries, historical fiction, or thrillers but I really quite enjoyed it so I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Interestings begins in the early 1970s with Jules Jacobson starting summer camp at Spirit-In-The-Woods, a camp for artistic children, shortly after the death of her father. She begins camp as Julie, an awkward teenager who doesn’t know her place, but soon meets lifelong friends who will change her life. They smoke joints together and make sexual jokes, but they’re teenagers and just want to do something interesting with their lives. The story jumps around to follow the lives of Jules, Ethan, Ash, Goodman and Jonah up until their mid 50s present day. They deal with college acceptances, career aspirations and road blocks, marriage, children, the AIDS epidemic and the loss of loved ones throughout their lives, all maintaining the friendship they forged at Spirit-In-The-Woods so many decades ago.
Although I find a lot of books that jump around get very muddled, I thought Wolitzer did this incredibly well. She skips from year to year and decade to decade seamlessly, even though the jump may even happen mid paragraph. There are few books that do this well, but this is definitely one of them.
What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it was so real. There wasn’t anything that made growing old and overcoming life challenges glamorous, it just was. The characters all face problems that I have faced many times in my life and they sometimes did it gracefully and sometimes they were a total hot mess, which is something I can totally relate to. Life isn’t about being glamorous or rich or being perfect, it’s got its ups and downs and this is something the characters certainly experience.
There are a few twists in the story that kept my attention and made it possible to keep me on my toes, despite the fact that the premise of the plot is not all that interesting. Some things I never saw coming and it just kind of smacked me in the face, which I totally loved.
Unfortunately, the reason this didn’t get a higher score from me wasn’t because the book was bad, because it certainly wasn’t, it was because the end really left something to be desired. I feel like Wolitzer could have done a lot more with it and wrap it up much better, but I guess that’s life isn’t it? Life doesn’t get wrapped up at the end in a pretty little bow, so neither did this book. I can appreciate that and it was certainly a quick and interesting read.