I'm so pleased to have read the first book of the summer that I can guiltlessly recommend. I have read a lot of enjoyably mediocre books this summer, and I'm so happy to finally be able to tell you: I read something awesome!
I always intended on buying this book, but I forgot about it until I saw the new softcover at B&N a couple of days ago (this is the old cover displayed on the left). Her Fearful Symmetry was published in 2009, Audrey Niffenegger's second book that sold for an advance of $4 million.
Regardless of how you felt about The Time Traveler's Wife (I loved it immensely), you should try Her Fearful Symmetry. For one, it doesn't resemble the first book at all. If you covered up the author's name on both, you probably wouldn't even be able to tell the same person wrote them.
It's a delightfully quirky ghost story for people who don't normally like ghost stories. A pair of twin sisters, Julia and Valentina, have been bequeathed their late Aunt Elspeth's flat in London, and the stipulations are, they must live there for a year before selling it and their parents are not allowed to enter.
The characters are wonderfully drawn. There's Martin, the upstairs neighbor, who has crippling OCD and cannot leave his flat. There's Robert, Elspeth's past lover who does research on cemeteries (LIKE ME!). And there's Elspeth, who is less dead than you might think she is. I loved how everyone retained a kind of magical, fantastical quality to them, even when their flaws made them seem very real.
The mood is unbelievably creepy and good. The creepiness just hovers around the edges, making you think something scary and horrible is going to happen throughout the whole book and the climax/twist is perfect. The ending is perfect. This is an example of excellent storytelling. I can't think of anything I'd do to improve it. In fact, the minute I finished it, I flipped it back to page one and started to reread. It's that good, guys.
Important: To be fair, I would add that the reviews on Amazon are not particularly positive, but the criticism mostly seems to be, "This is not as good as The Time Traveler's Wife." To which, I would disagree. If you are looking for something that is LIKE TTTW, you are going to be disappointed. Also, if you don't like reading literary fiction and are more of a BANG GIVE ME QUICK-ACTION PLOT NOW person, you will also probably be disappointed.
The other criticism is that people cannot seem to suspend their disbelief when it comes to the twins' strange habits and their decisions towards the end. I find this particularly strange as criticism, because hello, Audrey Niffenegger is the person who wrote a graphic novel called The Three Incestuous sisters; if you're not expecting lurid, weird, social-norm breaking, and magical realism, then honestly, Audrey is probably not the author for you.
So, take what you will from that, pro and con.