Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Don't Go

I have a love-hate relationship with Lisa Scottoline. I think of her as the "Target author." Whenever I think of one of her book jackets, I imagine it on the paperback displays of Target shelves with a trademark red and white bull's eye sticker. I don't know why that is relevant... it's just what first comes to mind when I think of the author. And maybe too the fact that I have never been quite interested in one of her books enough to pay full price. Every once in a while I will (admittedly obnoxiously) grab a basket full of books at Target and find somewhere to park (seasonal displays of patio furniture work well, although I am not opposed to just plopping on the floor in the book aisle) and peruse through the stack to find which interest me enough to buy. Something by Scottoline usually makes the stack... but never makes it home. Those that have found their way to me shelf usually arrived via Habitat's 25 cent sale of the library's $5 bag-o-books sale. This specific one I spotted at the library when I took Benjamin for one of the summer programs, and I actually checked out, a rarity.
I felt about it like I did about most of her novels. There is this gossamer strand, thin, but just strong enough to pull me through the pages, intrigued to see where the story goes. I felt this way reading Save Me and Look Again, also by the same author. I wouldn't say it was "good" but it was just enough to keep me interested. In places the detail is too much. In other areas the writing is banal, a little hard to suffer through. The ending in this novel, as well as the other two is a bit Shakespearian though... and that's not a good thing. I have taught Romeo and Juliet more times than I can count. And it seems when Willie the Bard got to Act Five he felt like "Time to wrap things up" and jumbled together a bunch of plot elements to finish the play. It's much like watching a movie that keeps your interest throughout but suffers a rushed ending, often like with Don't Go, one that doesn't flow with the rest of the action's pace or development.
The novel is about an Army surgeon that has to return home from war because his wife suffered a fatal household accident, leaving his infant daughter to the care of the deceased mother's sister, who conveniently is barren, and oozing with maternal love to smother the semi-orphaned infant. Dr. Mike must decide whether to fulfill his military duty with a small regimen of doctors desperately needing his help or to hand up his camo lab coat to play Mr. Mom. Complicating that decision is a whole "second life" that he discovers about his wife during his deployment, including alcoholism and infidelity.
There were certain unexpected twists to the novel, which were good. I was pretty certain that at page 19, I had then entire book figured out... and I was completely wrong. I don't know if Scottoline intentionally led me- her reader- to that conclusion. I'd like to think so, but I question achieving that feat with her writing skill style. The thing is... I would have been beyond content to be wrong, and surprised... but the ending was so disjointing. It's as if she wrote 3/4th of the book, walked away a few months, and then picked it back up to finish... maybe she needed a paycheck. The "obvious" conclusion, although expected and trite, would have been a more fulfilling end to the novel than the fluster of activity that finishes its pages.

No comments: