Book Review: An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer

An Available Man: A Novel
An Available Man: A Novel by Hilma Wolitzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what I think of this book. I found the premise interesting and the cover art baffling, but mostly I found that what was purported to be a gradual lifting of bereavement as a widower moved on with his life seemed startling quick as more than two years (or was it three years…or four?) was crammed into fewer than 300 pages. The passage of time was jumpy; the seasons passed jerkily and suddenly and the present would often be interrupted by a series of scenes from the recent past. I had trouble figuring out where I was in the course of the action of the book.

The character development was a bit lacking, which made the actions of the characters not really make sense to me. Even Edward, from whose point of view we see the story, seems fairly unknowable to me. It’s one thing for him to surprise himself, but I think the author ought to know what his motivations are and ought to clue in her audience.

Despite these complaints, I enjoyed reading the book overall, and some parts I enjoyed quite a bit. I liked the characters of Gladys and Mildred, both of whom seemed more complex than many of the others. I liked Olga, too, until the second half of the book when she, too, seemed to change too quickly for my taste. I liked her more aloof.

I really enjoyed the description of the restoration work on the tapestries, and, unlike his professed interest in birding, I really believed that Edward was interested in this work, too. I wish there’d been more of this, but then, I think I would have enjoyed the book more had it gone deeper than it did in most respects.

This will be the first book I’ll discuss with the new book club I’m attending this month. I’m actually pleased that it’s not one I love wholeheartedly and that I’ll get to be a bit surly and critical when I first meet these new folks. I always worry when I meet people when I’m really happy and positive that they’ll get the wrong impression about me.

View all my reviews

6 comments

  1. Pingback: 2012: My Year in Books « Imperfect Happiness
  2. Lori · April 11, 2012

    I also like your book reviews very much. I can look through your list and recommendations when searching for a new book to read, because it seems like I would be interested in most of your choices. I am also curious about this book club. Let us know how it goes.

    Like

    • CJ · April 11, 2012

      I’ll let you know, Lori! It’s at the book shop we were talking about the other day. If it’s good, maybe we can go together!

      Like

      • Lori · April 11, 2012

        Yes. I would like that.

        Like

  3. rockpapertree · April 11, 2012

    What a funny dilemna to worry that being too happy on first meeting will give the wrong impression of you. I get it, but still… funny.
    I also get the fun of being a bit critical and surly. Especially when you clearly have such good, thoughtful comments.
    I admire your ability to track all those things as you read. And then to be able to coherently write them!!
    It seems like this is the kind of book that makes you appreciate really great writing… the kind that makes it seem effortless.
    Like watching a bad actor and suddenly realizing how good the good ones are.
    Have fun at your book club!!

    Like

    • CJ · April 11, 2012

      What a treat to have a comment on a book review! I almost didn’t bother posting it, but I remember a few people saying they liked them.

      As far as tracking books go, if it weren’t for Goodreads, I wouldn’t have a prayer. I love tracking my books, though. My mom passed down a love of collecting, but combining that with my desire for an uncluttered life and a dislike of spending money has made it difficult to realize. I end up collecting experiences, like states I’ve lived in and books I’ve read and even, as a doula, births I’d attended. Collecting without a physical collection suits me. đŸ™‚

      Like

Your turn! What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s