Sunday, April 11, 2010
Hold Love Strong (3)
Author: Matthew Aaron Goodman
Publisher: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster
(Final Post on this book!)
Because this book is really so amazing, I decided to start with the things I didn't like, to get them out of the way.
As I mentioned in Post #2, I found the pace after the first section to be a bit slow. Once I got going farther into the book, I got used to the pace. It didn't speed up, but it got better - more on that in the "positive" section. What I started noticing was that, although Abraham is the narrator and supposedly the center of the story, he himself didn't really take any action. At one point, he says something like "I'm an observer," and I thought - exactly! Up until page 125 or so, Abraham doesn't do anything, he's just passive and watching as things happen around him and to him. Even then, he doesn't start wanting anything until around page 160. I think the worst part is the misleading blurb on the back cover. It makes it sound like the whole book is about Abraham's struggle to make it through school and get to college, but in the book, it doesn't sound like he is focused on that so much, until the last few chapters. He seems to be just processing all the events around him and reacting to them. The last part of the book is when he "wakes up" and starts taking his life in his own hands, doing things and making decisions to get a better life for himself.
That said, the book really is a fantastic book. I think it should have been pitched (on the back cover) less as a single person's story and more as a sample slice of life in his neighborhood and community. Because Goodman does a great job of describing what life is like in Ever and making the reader feel like he is experiencing it from within.
Actually, I wasn't surprised to read, in the interview with the author in the back of the book, that Goodman was originally a poet who then tried his hand at writing a novel. The language is sharp and precise, with extremely vivid descriptions. Many passages in the book actually feel more like poetry than prose. The author has a way of introducing a scene, then slowing down the action to give a description or Abraham's thoughts, and then speeding up again to resume action. Sometimes it feels like he pressed pause, gave an aside, and then went back to the story. But it's done so naturally that I didn't feel it happening until I took the time to think about the style.
I also love the way Goodman uses questions and "appositives" throughout the book. It gives a sense of the confusion and desperation Abraham feels when his thoughts constantly turn to questioning rather than making statements. And the way he sometimes names a character in Abraham's thoughts, by giving every conceivable name for that person, makes that person alive, more than just one facet, it makes them multi-faceted and gives the reader the feeling that Abraham is crying out, saying - look at this person! Whatever misfortunes happen, she is a person, a real person, who is so much more than what her life ended up being.
So as stories go, this one isn't a great story, but as a book about African-American life in Queens, this is a beautiful, brilliant book.