Friday, May 2, 2014
Book Review: You Lost Me There
3 Stars - Recommended for readers who don't mind a slow story that turns and churns over loss and regret and misunderstanding
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
I bought this book as a hardcover yeaaaaars ago at a book sale for a couple of bucks, drawn to it by the title and cover, less so by the jacket copy. The blurb refers to the book as " at turns funny, charming, and tragic". We'll get back to this in a moment.
I left it shelved with the countless other unread book-sale-binge-buys I've amassed over the years (god knows how many I have... enough to overstuff two entire bookshelves and then some), and didn't have an urge to pull it down and crack it open until my husband's work related three-week-long absence from home last month.
I was mopey and not thrilled that he was going to be gone from home for so long, and I needed to lose myself in a book that matched my current mood. And You Lost Me There sounded as though it would fit the bill nicely. The main character is a neuroscientist who's having a hard time getting over the loss of his wife. Rather than properly grieve her when she first passed away, he's been sort of casually dating his very-much-younger co-worker and sort of strangely lending himself out as a non-sexual boy-toy to his wife's very-much-older aunt. Until he discovers a bunch of index cards written out in his wife's handwriting, outlining her thoughts on their marriage... as part of a homework assignment given to them during a brief stint of couples counseling.
So here it comes, the big ah-ha moment. Our neuroscientist, who prides himself on his keen memory, since, well, you know, he STUDIES it for a living, is suddenly thrown into shock at the fact that his wife remembered their life together very differently than he did. Where he was wedded in ignorant bliss and struggles to separate one moment from another, his beloved Sara writes about specific, defining moments in their lives. Moments that had a major impact on her. Moments that he remembers quite differently, or worse, simply cannot recall at all.
So the question that chews at him, and so, in turn, should be chewing at us, is how two people can live their lives together and experience their time together so differently. Well, I don't need to read a three hundred page novel to be able to tell you that hey, guess what, people experience shit differently dude, suck it up and move on, be happy you found those cards because of the better-late-than-never insight it gives you into who you are when viewed from other people's perspectives, and just move on. Geesh.
And yeah, so I get it, he's a study-er of brains and memory and is totally weirded out by the unpredictable ways in which people experience, remember, and mentally file away moments. This part of it, I admit, fed right into a thing I've always found myself obsessing over - more so since I've had kids, but I've been doing it since I was in high school - which is (and you might think I'm a little bit crazy when I tell you this, but really, what do I care?) how we've got to come to terms with the fact that we will never, ever, really, truly know what it is like to be anyone other than ourselves. We won't ever really understand how other people see us, hear us, perceive us... we'll never feel how much they might hate us or love us, never know how much they think of us, or WHAT they think when they do think of us. And that's part of life. I might not like that my kids and husband have thoughts and feelings that are independent of me, but if I sit there and dwell on it I'm likely to drive myself bat-shit crazy.
But enough about me and my weird-ass mental games, right? Let's get back to Rosencrans and his failure to write a book that made me grip the pages with a fierce and sisterly sense of sameness. This book was soooo not the companion-to-my-misery I had hoped it would be. It went down a road I wasn't really interested in going down but followed reluctantly because, hell, I was already so many pages into it and I needed to finish it so it'd count against my goodreads challenge. (well, no not really.) I actually kept reading to see if it would get any better. I was still holding out hope for the whole "at turns funny, charming, and tragic" stuff. But no deal.
I didn't find it funny - it was actually kind of boring and sad in a "dude, please, just let it go" sort of way. I didn't find it charming - I actually had a great dislike for our protag and his self-centeredness and I was annoyed by his girl-friday and really had a hard time buying into the horny old broad. And tragic? Well, ok, I'll give Rosencrans that. It was a tragic in this sense - our poor neuroscientist was happy remembering his wife and their perfect marriage while bopping a chick that could have been his granddaughter. Those cards should have been left the hell alone. Watching him literally disintegrate right before our eyes was tragic. Tiresome, yes. But also tragic.
Ah, me. A mild disappointment, yet one that, as I sit here one month later, composing this review, I can still feel... I can remember how I felt as I read it, and that must mean something, yes?