I hated Elegies for the Brokenhearted immediately, on the very first page. So I can't really explain why I persisted with it, since I don't strongly enforce my "give it 30 pages before giving up" policy in such cases, but I DID persist, and soon loved it so much I was skipping computer time to read it, and snapping irritably at children who interrupted me, and thinking about the characters while making dinner.
I can't explain why it worked for me. It has so many things I dislike in a book, starting right away with being written in the second-person singular ("You were such-and-such," "Your father was so-and-so," etc.). The second major issue was that it was in the form of letters to people. (Though this is the very thing that helped with the first issue: I hate being told that _I_ did something I DIDN'T do---but clearly she was talking to someone else.) The third major issue was that the narrator was the dreamy drifter type, which I don't usually find appealing. The fourth major issue was the prose style: two pages in, I said to myself snidely, "A hundred bucks says the word 'lyrical' will be used on the cover." (I won that bet.) The fifth major issue was that it fed right into my mid-life crisis: "WE ALL LIVE MISERABLE POINTLESS SELF-DECEIVING LIVES, AND THEN WE DIEEEEEEEEEEE."
Nevertheless, I loved it. LOVED IT. It took me more than a dozen pages to hit my stride with it, and with each new section (there are five sections, each addressed to a different person) it took a few pages again. The narrator is addressing each of five people in her life who have died; after the first one, I started putting my hand over the birth/death dates at the beginning of each section, because I didn't want the clue of how old the person had been at death.
Normally I struggle with short stories because I get upset when they're over (I like series best: MORE than a whole book, not LESS). This is sort of like short stories because it's five separate "You"s she's writing to, but it's actually a novel: in the background of each person she's writing to, she's writing about how her own life went, and the stories start to tie together. I love stuff like that, where you gradually piece together a bunch of things. I was tempted to start again at the beginning, so that I could fit those earlier parts into the parts I'd patched together since then.
Our library system also has Hello, I Must Be Going by the same author, so I've put in a request for it. (That's a test, for me, of a good book: do I immediately seek out other books by the same author? And in this case I'd barely closed the book before I was at my computer.) If I like that one too, I'll probably order a copy of her third book (A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw) and donate it.
Speaking of donating, I have some ad revenue to spend, and I like the idea of using it to make you read something I liked. So I'll buy a paperback copy of this book for one person who wants to try it. I always feel awkward about leaving a comment on a post when I wanted to comment on the content but I DON'T want to enter the giveaway, so let's do it like this: I'll choose one random winner from all comments that MENTION wanting to win a copy. I'll pick someone on Friday the 23rd, probably in the morning sometime.
[Edit 03-23-2012: Winner is StephLove!]
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...