Friday, May 16, 2008

Picking a Green Apple

Before leaving on a trip I always visit my favorite neighborhood bookstore Green Apple Books ( . What are my book selection criteria? First of all, for the most practical of reasons, it has to be a paperback and it can't be too big. I also read the hand-written recommendations from employees posted in front of some books. I'm always interested in reading an author I haven't read before, and I often enjoy books written by poets (Reading In the Dark by Seamus Deane is a favorite). The book Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio passed all those tests – and I found a used copy for five bucks!

The novel, which is poet Addonizio's first, revolves around three main characters, and the chapters alternately reflect their perspectives. The first is Diana, a thirtysomething under-employed OCD sufferer whose husband has just left her. The second is Jamie, a pregnant seventeen year old who is ambivalent about what she wants for herself and for her child. And then there's Stella, Jamie's unborn child. Yes, that's right – every third chapter is narrated by this baby-to-be. She's easily the most stable of the three.

There are parts of this novel I admired. Addonizio seems to have a great understanding of what goes on in the head of an OCD sufferer. Diana's early chapters each begin with one of her Rules (“ Rule # 27:Wash any bedding that touches the floor”), and it's poignant to see how she struggles to escape the crippling effects of her ailment. Addonizio also does a good job of portraying the way damaged people are capable of helping other damaged people, But using an unborn/newborn to move the story along – doesn't that seem like cheating? And she resolves all the conflicts using a character who is a way too perfect and extremely attractive MALE. The ending ties up every loose end into a perfect bow, and I was left feeling that Addonizio could have done more with these complex characters. A good beach read (242 pages, large print, interesting cover) but a little disappointing.

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