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For me, this novel was nicely written with a good plot and well drawn characters. BUT I don't read novels, watch pro sports, nor tune in to award ceremonies to be politically indoctrinated. This happens too often with the books I seem to choose. I get involved in a good story. . . . then wham.
It might have been an excellent story if the author had stuck to the story instead of the constant verbose meanderings the broke up the flow of the tale. Throwing in politics and social injustice was totally not relevant to the story. Bel's reaction to the 2016 election was idiotic to say the least. I rather think anyone from West Virginia who reads this book has a right to be offended. Not interested in anything else by this author.
The plot line could have kept my interest if the author had stuck to the story instead of venturing out into several "woke" liberal social justice/save the environment/Trump hating scenarios. In one such scene totaling unrelated to the plot, the heroine has a full blown debilitating panic attack complete with dizziness, difficulty breathing, and heart attack symptoms upon learning that Trump had been elected President. I read novels to be entertained and to escape into a story, not to be besieged by the author's personal political agenda throughout the plot. This author limits the reading audience by not editing the content down to what is important to the reader -- A Good Story and good characterization. Both the plot and the characters lacked depth due to over emphasis on political issues not related to the story.
I had a hard time getting through this book because the main character Isabel was so annoyingly neurotic and self-obssessed. As the book progresses, you do finally find out why she is so damaged, however you have to wade through a lot of in depth descriptions of feelings and landscapes. It was a bit tedious. To seal the deal of suspecting that the author herself is likely an overly self obsessed snowflake, there was actually a "traumatic event" describing Isabel's reaction to an election. A complete side track that had nothing to do with the story other than to showcase the only thing that ever made her break down and cry in front of her husband. She held her facade of cool competence throughout her adult life except for a two day emotional, fetal-curling breakdown of the election of a man she hated. SNOWFLAKE AVALANCHE! My takeaway from this and other recent books I've read is that I plan to avoid new authors and stick with the thousands of books I still haven't read yet written before 2016 or by authors I know I like.
I was enjoying spending my time with this author's work until I realized how politically correct she was being, as if to signal to her peers that it is safe to snuggle up to this author, to hold her in esteem because she is clearly on their side. Sadly, you never see literary awards being given to writers who are NOT bent this way. One must toe the line in order to be worthy of regard of those in powerful places. It was disappointing because she mirrored so many of my own life experiences, and indeed she is masterful with the language.
The first 85% if the book was incredible. A sad moving story about a poor girl from west Virginia. Then it just completely switch's to a odd mix of extremely political causes and male bad tropes. The amount of white hate in the last 10 percent Of the book is truly frighting to see from an author who is actively teaching at a college. What's make it even more odd is there a few digs at white men mostly scattered throughout the first 90% but in a way that makes sense to the story and how some Americans are still prejudice. The last 10% is just so outlandish and changes the whole plot of the book it's very jarring, this is one incredible book with a 100 page essay against white and rich people tacked onto the end
While the author has a descriptive & evocative way with words, unless you enjoy liberal/progressive junk being shoved down your throat, give this a miss. Too much of it is just too precious. I can't believe she represents the Willa Cather chair at Univ. of NE (main campus, Lincoln). If Nebraskans knew what they were subsidizing... they wouldn't.
I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. After all, it's supposed to be a thriller according to some of its hype. Nothing much happened. There were maybe one or two instances of really nice turns of phrases. The rest was ... a lot of nothing. At least it was a fast read. No more books by Joy Castro for me.