Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: "Among the Ten Thousand Things" by Julia Pierpont

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Deb Shanley knows that her artist husband, Jack, has had problems with fidelity—in fact, when she and Jack first began their relationship, he was still married to his first wife. But since he promised that his latest affair had ended, she is more than just a little thrown when his jilted lover sends Deb a box of all of the emails (many of them sexual in nature) that Jack sent her, especially when that box is delivered to her children's hands instead of her own.

As Deb tries to make sense of her feelings, and Jack vacillates between guilt over the emails and anxiety over the future of his career, their children, 15-year-old Simon and 11-year-old Kay react in different ways. Simon takes advantage of his mother's distraction to dabble in drugs, sex, and delinquency, while Kay struggles with understanding her approaching maturity and the meanness of her fellow classmates. And both look to Deb to set the tone for their relationship with their father; when she waffles on how to deal with Jack, they're unsure of how to deal with her as well.

Julia Pierpont's Among the Ten Thousand Things is an intriguing look at a marriage in trouble, and how others, including children, get caught in the crossfire. It's also the story of trying to find your own strength in the face of crisis and not allow yourself to be taken advantage of, as well as a commentary on whether what goes around truly comes around.

I thought this book was very well written, but the way the narrative structure unfolded ruined the book for me. The first quarter of the book starts out terrifically, providing emotion, anger, frustration with some of the characters, even a little suspense about how the story will proceed. Then, inexplicably (at least for me), the second quarter of the book quickly summarizes what happens to the characters from that moment on, and does so in very short sentences. But there's still half of the book left, and the third quarter of the story goes back to where the first quarter ended. So it was hard for me to remain interested in the story when I ultimately knew what was going to happen.

I saw, after the fact, a reviewer on Goodreads suggesting you read Section 1, then Section 3, then Sections 2 and 4, and I'd imagine if you do that, you might enjoy this book even more. Regardless, Pierpont has a tremendous amount of talent, and I'll be interested in watching her career unfold.

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