Friday, November 4, 2011
Review: The Castaways
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I don't know why I keep letting a book's popularity persuade me. More often than not, I wind up slogging through, irritated at it for existing. This was one such book. I found it a story jam-packed full of shallow people who have so few problems that they have to create drama in their lives. There wasn't a single problem in this book that they didn't bring on themselves.
The story opens with the only thing that actually happens in the narrative occurring off-screen, so that the remaining characters can pick it apart and whine about their parts in it for the rest of the book. Greg and Tess MacAvoy drown in a boating accident on their twelfth anniversary. Their six closest friends lament and wail and gnash their teeth, until finally revealing to the reader that they each could claim credit for the MacAvoy's death.
Tess MacAvoy is the only character I didn't find detestable in the entire book, but apparently she was named after the Tess of D'Urbeville fame. She was a virtuous woman surrounded by jerks, and eventually corrupted by them.
The six remaining Castaways remember Tess and Greg and the parts they shared in their lives, and a pattern quickly emerges. I disliked all of them, though not quite equally. Delilah was my least favorite, and so I disliked her husband, Jeffrey, for having been stupid enough to marry someone who was clearly so selfish and drama-causing. Phoebe in her drug-addled haze was merely pitiable for the fact that she clearly can't cope with anything or face it head-on, and her husband, Addison's, willingness to hop into bed with one of Phoebe's friends is almost understandable. Almost. The Chief and Andrea are last on my list, though Andrea's simultaneous wallowing in the grieving process and refusal to deal with it grated on my nerves to no end. Also, I was furious at the Chief for using his influence to have a sexual crime swept under the rug. I was also furious at the book for glossing over that the accuser is dismissed so readily, and, in a setting whose small-town charm is so frequently touted, apparently never hears a single unkind word about it. This book does not occur in my reality.
And that was really what bothered me most about the book. Had it presented itself as fantasy, I would've known to expect it to be unrealistic and nothing like the real world. Instead, I had to figure out by reading it that the characters existed in no world I recognized. They live idyllic lives, where they can escape to Miami on a whim when the snow gets too depressing, where anything bad happening equals a total breakdown of coping skills because they've never had to deal with a crisis before, where you can drink until you're cross-eyed then drive home without incident. The entire conflict of the book seems to be that, suddenly, there are consequences for bad decisions, and they're all shaken by that basic truth.
Next time, I'll read the reviews more carefully before I pick up an audio book that lots of people read and liked. Hopefully it'll spare me from such experiences.
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