Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Rant: Margarettown

In the playful tradition of The Time Traveler’s Wife comes an enchanting story about love in its many forms, and a man’s timeless journey into the unknowable territory of the woman he loves. From the moment they first sleep together -- piled atop seven mattresses in her dorm room -- N. is pulled ineluctably into a rich and enchanted relationship with Margaret Towne, a woman who will introduce him to worlds he never dreamed existed. 

Written as a final letter from N. to his young daughter, Jane, Margarettown recounts the story of his relationship with Margaret. Margaret Towne is the name of the woman he loves and of the town she introduces him to, Margarettown. It is a place both real and imagined, located somewhere in upstate New York and home to a mysterious "family" of women named Old Margaret, Marge, Mia, Maggie, and May. In this strange and fantastical place, N. and Margaret become joined forever. 

Margarettown is a story of what it takes to love the same person for a lifetime and about the impossibility of really knowing anything about who it is we have come to love.

Wow, what a book! I have blogged about Gabrielle Zevin's books before, and because I enjoyed ELSEWHERE so much, I decided to pick up a book that sounded like it was in a similar vein. MARGARETTOWN is not YA, it is actually an adult book, and you know I rarely have the patience for adult books. First of all, I don't want to ruin the premise of the book, which you will figure out about a quarter of the way into it, but it is one heck of a premise. ELSEWHERE was about an afterlife where everyone ages backwards until they are reborn. MARGARETTOWN is equally as cool, if not better. Part fairy tale, part memoir, you never really know if what N., the narrator, is saying is true or a fabrication. And that's what makes it magic.

It does not really resemble THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, and I don't know why the blurb says that, other than that both books employ magical elements. MARGARETTOWN is much more abstract than TTTW. This book is darkly whimsical and quirky. It is not for people who do not like nontraditional story telling; the book is fairly disjointed and there are four "parts" of it, alternatively narrated, and sometimes very allegorical. It's on the literary side (which I like, personally) and character-driven. I enjoyed how the story changed hands from narrator to narrator and did not lose any of its charm. What matters in MARGARETTOWN is not who is telling the story.

I want to point out that I had really high expectations going into this book. I wanted to buy it on my Kindle, but for some reason, it only exists in German (can someone explain to me why a book that is originally in English would only be available electronically in German? I mean, what the hell, really). I checked it out at the library instead. So I went out of my way to get it, is what I'm saying. Even so, I read it in one sitting. Instead of doing homework. It was totally and utterly worth it. I cried at the end. I LOVE THIS BOOK, GUISE. I don't want to give it back to the library. I'm rereading it already. That's how much I love it.

I think people who like LIAR by Justine Larbalestier would weirdly find this book up their alley. There's a lot of compulsive lying going on. Also, people who enjoy books by Garret Freymann-Weyr, who is one of my favorite authors. This book is going right up there alongside STAY WITH ME as a favorite, and one that deserves frequent reads. Everyone should give the book a try. It's short and easy to read, but it leaves a serious impression.

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