I won a copy of Commuters from Kay (thanks, again!) I was looking forward to a story about a grandmother in her 70's getting married again with the whole shebang--the dress, the reception, all in high style, kind of thumbing her nose at those who would prefer something quieter, more discrete.
What I'd looked forward to was an older couple still very much involved in life and set on defying stereotypical views that the aging should retire quietly and fade into the woodwork. Winnie and Jerry, however, remain rather stock characters. Their relationship is never developed into something alive and breathing. We are told, not shown, and even the telling fails to bring them off the page. Winnie's main defiance? Well, it didn't impress me much that she insisted on cutting down that tree.
The story devolves into family dynamics that are not particularly riveting, although they should be. I found it hard to identify with Winnie's daughter Rachel, who had plenty of problems of her own and should have evoked more sympathy. While there were a number of interesting story lines--Rachel's husband is recovering from traumatic brain injury and the family is struggling financially; Annette, Jerry's daughter, attempts to wrest the family business from Jerry; Avery, Jerry's grandson, has had problems with addiction, but is trying to establish himself as a chef; Jerry begins a pretty quick slide into Alzheimer's Disease--these story lines have a feeling of being included rather like a list to avoid really developing the relationships.
It isn't that the situations aren't interesting; it is the sense of reading a synopsis that pervades the novel, an accumulation of parts that never coalesce into a meaningful whole. A story of events, not of characters with whom you can fully involve yourself.
The Amazon reviews are all very positive, but I found the novel lackluster. Although she liked the book better than I did, Kay mentions some of the same problems: "Sometimes, I felt almost like an observer outside the window of the family depicted on the cover, seeing and hearing what the author wanted to share with me, but perhaps not getting to know the characters and their motivations quite as fully as I might have wished."
P.S. -- Every review I've read on the TLC book tour is positive. Remarkably positive. Have to wonder about myself sometimes. Why didn't I find it "lovely and literate," "poignant," "sparkling"?
Other Reviews (I've chosen 2 that are not so overwhelmingly delighted with the book): Kay at My Random Acts of Reading; Jen at Devourer of Books;
Fiction. Family Drama. 2010. 400 pages.