Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: "The Slippage" by Ben Greenman

"The slippage is a specific thing. It's the moment when you start to lose your footing."

It's hard to tell where William Day's slippage began. Was it at the party he and his wife, Louisa, threw, when she didn't come out of hiding until the very end? Was it the moment an emotionally distant Louisa revealed she had bought property with inherited money, and asked William to build her a house? Or was it the unexpected reappearance of a person with whom he had a brief relationship some time ago?

Whatever was the instigator, something—or a combination of things—seems to be increasing William's discomfort with his life, his marriage, and his career, causing him to act erratically in all three aspects. And Louisa's fluctuating moods don't seem to help, although he tries taking solace in the time he spends with a former girlfriend's young son. But finally he is confronted with a major decision—build the house for Louisa or risk jeopardizing his marriage irrevocably. Meanwhile, he also has to deal with his artist brother-in-law's emotional baggage, and the increased tension of an arsonist stalking their town.

Ben Greenman's The Slippage is a well-written and intriguing book about relationships, but it's also more about the things left unsaid than the things that are actually said. So often in this book the characters didn't say what they were thinking or feeling, or didn't divulge the truth about a particular situation, which often led to misunderstandings or caused the characters to act in ways they might not ordinarily. At times I found myself wondering what the characters were really thinking, or what was motivating them to act the way they were, and that confused me occasionally. But these pauses, these secrets really made the situations Greenman wrote about seem more true-to-life.

I really enjoyed Greenman's storytelling ability, and thought for the most part, William was a really compelling character, although at times he, too, was a little more mysterious than I thought he'd be. But I found Louisa's character fairly unlikeable, and in fact, Louisa's actions toward the end of the book seemed somewhat out of character, so I wasn't sure if we were to take her at face value. Still, Greenman's voice is an enjoyable one, and I plan to go back and explore some of his earlier story collections to see the depth of his talent.

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