Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review: "Sunday's on the Phone to Monday" by Christine Reilly

This one just didn't work for me.

Mathilde and Claudio meet at a party at NYU in 1998. Mathilde is an aspiring actress, creative and privileged, while Claudio left his home in Detroit and never looked back, working to buy a record shop in the heart of New York City. Their relationship consumes them both, sometimes whimsical, sometimes all-encompassing, but tremendously fulfilling, and it isn't long before they marry and begin building a somewhat Bohemian life together.

The couple raise three children—studious Natasha; creative, sensitive Lucy, who suffers from a rare heart ailment; and their adopted daughter Carly, empathetic, curious, and occasionally intense. As the girls deal with the usual and the unusual ups and downs of childhood and young adulthood, Claudio and Mathilde face their own challenges as well, mostly in the guise of Claudio's emotionally troubled sister, Jane, whom he moved from an unhealthy life in Louisiana to a mental hospital in New York.

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday is a quirky, thought-provoking, and at times, emotionally compelling book about family and the powerful hold it can have over us, in both the best and worst of times. It's a story about love, about living life to the fullest you can imagine, and attempting to weather the storms that come your way. It's also a book about relationships—romantic, familial, platonic—and how they shape our worldviews and our actions.

I thought Christine Reilly created some interesting, complex characters, but despite spending more than 300 pages with them, I never really felt as if I got to know them. I think this is because the book is told in short, vignette-like chapters, some of which happen within an hour or day of each other, some of which happen months, even years later. It's hard to get a hold on what is happening because much of the book is told in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness, dreamlike way that I found off-putting.

The book's biggest quirk was the constant capitalization of the word "Heart," in whatever ways it was used (Heartache, Heartbreak, etc.). While I think I understand what Reilly was trying to achieve it stopped me in my tracks every time I saw that word capitalized in the middle of a sentence, and it is used quite a bit in this book. I don't know if this is intentional or if this is something that will be fixed before the book is officially released, but it really bothered me.

I think Reilly definitely has talent and creativity, and knows how to paint beautiful visual pictures. While Sunday's on the Phone to Monday didn't click for me, perhaps people more comfortable with less linear, more dreamlike storytelling will find this moving and fulfilling.

NetGalley, Edelweiss, and Touchstone provided an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

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