Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: "The Intimates" by Ralph Sassone

I really enjoyed this book, but it is really difficult to describe. Reading it taught me a valuable lesson—the description of a book on its inside cover isn't always accurate.

The Intimates poses an interesting question: can you write a story about a friendship when in two-thirds of the book, the friends aren't ever together? Robbie and Maize became friends in high school. Once they removed the sexual component from their friendship (as Robbie began accepting his homosexuality), their relationship grew, until Robbie moved away, leaving Maize fairly rudderless. They reunited in college, where Robbie described their relationship as serving as each other's "human diaries," the person to whom each can divulge their most personal or painful insights or secrets.

The book is divided into thirds. The first third follows Maize in her senior year of high school, where she is longing to do something different but is too afraid to act; the second third follows Robbie on his trip to Italy to visit his estranged father and his girlfriend, where he makes what he thinks is a shocking discovery but is saved in just the nick of time from divulging it; and the last third follows the two as they, along with his new boyfriend, help Robbie's mother pack to move to a new house. This is a simplistic description of the multi-layered plot, which explores how friendship can at times be both an anchor and a weight.

This is a very well-written and intriguing book. Some of the language Sassone used was absolutely beautiful, and parts of the book definitely tugged at my emotions. I felt that he created two immensely complex, if not particularly likeable, characters. And that, fundamentally, was one of the two reasons I liked this book but didn't love it. I had trouble finding a great deal of sympathy (or empathy, frankly) for either Robbie or Maize most of the time. Sassone also didn't give me enough evidence that Robbie and Maize actually cared for each other the way you're told they do. But that being said, the book has gotten stellar customer reviews on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so I'd say it's worth reading.

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