The Beginners

It is going to be difficult, but I’m going to try to be objective, even though I REALLY did not like this book. This was certainly a case of choosing a book by the cover. I wasn’t in the mood for anything in particular and it has a pretty, yet spooky cover. Reading the inside flap this is what I expected: coming of age story, small town New England, creepy new couple moves in, and hints of ties to witch hunts. Yes the story does touch on each of these elements…but not in the expected way. Not that as a reader predicting the plot is a good thing, but I was expecting more of a supernatural twist. Instead what was presented was barely coherent, and disturbing. I think the author was trying to provoke more of an emotional response and raise questions, rather than tell a story in the strict sense. Many other authors have done that, and very well, Wolff was not one of them.  Audrey Nifenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, for example was surreal, raising questions and evoking emotional responses, without completely losing the reader. The Beginners was disjointed with snatches of actual story mixed with disturbing scenes of an adolescent’s exploitation by previously mentioned creepy couple. I think a major problem I had was how the book is presented by the publishers. If I had different expectations going in I may have been more prepared to go with the author, even then I would have to say the book was poorly written.

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