4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
As I wandered aimlessly through the crowd at the Book Blogger Convention Reception in NYC back in May, collecting business cards and finally putting faces to the names of bloggers I had been interacting with for months, I had the pleasure of meeting Justin Kramon - debut author of Finny.
It was that sort of bumbling, awkward I-turned-around-and-he-turned-around-and-now-we-are-facing-one-another moments in the middle of the conference room, those moments that are more common than not in those types of social networking scenes. Within minutes, the stilted "hi! you're an author? what did you write?" uncomfortableness transformed into a friendly "who is your favorite author? what do you think of this place?" conversation between two book lovers. Unknown to us, as we chatted away about the publishing process and release date of Finny, his near-obsessive love for John Irving, and my bookwhoredom for Jose Saramago and Cormac McCarthy, the BBCR crowd had thinned out greatly. When we parted ways, it was with a promise from him to send me a copy of his novel and from me to read it and review it for my blog.
Finny, the lead character in Kramon's novel, begins most of her interactions with people in the same bumbling, awkward way. It's an endearing, and sometimes even frustrating, quality that follows Finny throughout the entire life of the book.
When we first meet Finny, she is a painfully proud tomboy who enjoys tormenting her prim-and-proper mother and instigating her great-men-quoting father. Kramon describes her as "a tough, rascally kid...who avoided baths". In a moment of anger, Finny runs away from her family home and encounters Earl, a young man with a "mix and match body...a man's top half on a child's legs".
Here is where the story really begins. We see a change in Finny almost instantly. This fearless, aggressive young lady finds herself smitten with Earl, unable to stop thinking about him, devising ways to be able to spend time with him, and eventually they cultivate this unbreakable bond that even time cannot weaken.
Kramon's epic tale encompasses 20 years of Finny's life, in which we stumble along behind her numerous hello's and goodbye's to friends, family, and Earl. Because for Finny Short, there is only ever just Earl.
Connecting to this novel was not a hard thing to do. I lived a similar life to Finny in many ways. Having relocated 4 separate times throughout my middle and high school years, I made and lost many friends during that period of my life. Boys came and went, best friends were discovered and then discarded. But there were always a few constants, no matter where I was. Those people that are just naturally engrained into your life. Close friends that, no matter how much time passed between phone calls or visits, always remained your closest friends. Missed opportunities always had this uncanny way of reappearing, an unmistakeable second chance.
All of this can be found within the pages of Finny. It's a coming of age story that emphasizes many moments of Finny's life, weaving in and out of focus, rushing around the corners to spotlight specific turning points of her life.
Weighing in at a little over 350 pages, I found that Kramon managed to get a lot of story into such a small book. At times, perhaps due to the lower page count, there were sections of the story that felt unnecessarily rushed, though it did not take anything away from the overall novel.
As I read the book, which is told in third person omniscient, I often wondered what it would have been like to experience it in the first person - from Finny's point of view. Third person places an outside observer into a story, which can cause some of the human feelings and emotions to become diluted or lost. The narrator of the third person POV is not experiencing the story first hand, rather he is recording what is going on and filtering what he is seeing in order to pass it on to us, the reader.
Would Finny have packed a bigger punch had it been narrated in first person? Would that have turned this into the next best book for me?
Check out Finny's book trailer - which I quite like!