Monday, February 22, 2016

Only Love Can Break Your Heart - Ed Tarkington

When I was still making a living as a bookseller I read every book not only for myself but also with my customers in mind. To whom would I be eager to sell this? Which customer has been asking for something like this, and which folks do I already know it wouldn't suit?

That's a lot of people to have up in your head when you're trying to read, as welcome as their company was for all those years. For all that time, part of the fun of reading a great book was being excited about getting to the store so I could start selling it to my favorite customer-people. 

Since the beginning of the year I've read some books I liked, a couple that were just meh, a couple I could not force myself to finish, but until I turned the last page of Only Love Can Break Your Heart I had not had that same feeling of excitement.... only this time with nowhere to put that feeling except here. 

We meet Rocky at age 8, a young boy who idolizes his older half-brother Paul. Paul is that cool guy--Rocky describes him as being like The Fonz, except that you never saw The Fonz with a cigarette. Rocky's adoration survives a cruelty visited on him by Paul, one that leads to Paul's exit from the family home. When, many years hence, he turns up again it is not without consequences for everyone he left behind. 

This is a novel about love felt and experienced imperfectly but deeply, the lies it can force us to believe, and the beautiful truths that are hidden until a heart can break open. 

I've always found a Bildungsroman, as this one is, a particularly satisfying framework for a novel. The writing must be incredibly well balanced; the voice of the protagonist as a child must be authentic, even when you know the story is being narrated from their perspective as an adult. Too many writers seem bent on providing debriefings all along the way rather than letting the story unfold naturally. Tarkington, however, gets it all exquisitely right. 

Publisher:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publish Date: January 5, 2016


I'd be much obliged if you'd share this blog with anyone who might find it interesting. 

No comments:

Post a Comment