Back in April 2007, I wrote a post about a book called Flight by Ginger Strand. I had read a review of it and was intrigued. Tonight, I finished it. It took me a long time to read it, not because it was a long book, but because I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
The book is about a nuclear family – mom, dad, two grown daughters – who converge on the parents’ home on the eve of the youngest daughter’s wedding. This is not a subtle book – each of the characters is in varying degrees of fleeing from a bad relationship, whether it’s a long marriage, a shorter one, or one that hasn’t even taken place yet – hence the title. Also, the father is an airline pilot, and 9/11 is supposed to be looming in the background, ostensibly causing the characters to reexamine their lives amidst the realization of its frailty.
It doesn’t sound so bad. But here’s why I didn’t like it. While I usually enjoy family dramas, I found this one suffocating. Strand’s best attributes as a writer, in my opinion, worked to her disadvatange here. Her eye for detail is pretty amazing – her ability to construct wholly believable scenes and convey the layers of family relationships through realistic dialogue and precisely drawn actions is very impressive. However, I felt like I was reading this book in real time – that I was actually living this 48-hour period along with this unhappy family. I wanted out. I wanted to go somewhere else and get away from them, to shed the burden of experiencing their lives. This is not a good quality in a novel.
I also didn’t like the characters. They are each frustrating and somewhat unlikeable. I just didn’t care if the youngest went through with her wedding or if the parents worked out their issues. That’s another fatal flaw for me – if I just don’t care what happens, I have a hard time getting through the book.
I could go on – some subplots that didn’t get enough attention or resolution, for example – but suffice it to say I just didn’t love this book. Strand is clearly a very talented writer – as I mentioned, her gift for detail and precision is remarkable – but the plot and characters on this one just didn’t do it for me. I read to escape, and this book felt like a prison.