Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

Goodnight Nobody
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't like open-ended narratives. It's a shame, because this book had so much going for it. I sympathized with the main character, I enjoyed the pacing and the characters, and I wanted to know where it was going. Instead, I got a fizzled part 3, no resolution to the questions that kept me pulled along to the end, and a failed attempt at a pastiche to Kate Chopin's The Awakening. An ending that tried to be highbrow and literary instead felt to me like a cop-out, and I made a disgusted noise when I realized that was all there was.

I listened to the book on audio, and the narrator was overall good. She had inflections and accents to mark each individual character, and didn't make the children sound screechy. I was distracted, though, by her continued pronunciation of Eastham (properly pronounced "East Ham") as "East'im." She also attempts a Cape Cod accent, which I wish she'd left alone.

Aside from that, the book had a lot of promise. Kate gained my sympathy early on, by living one of my worst nightmares, and handling it with humor and sarcasm, the way I think I might've.

The story follows Kate Klein, mother of three-year-old twin boys and a four-year-old girl, stuck in suburban housewife hell. She discovers her neighbor, a fellow stay-at-home-mother, dead with a knife in her back, and sets out to solve the mystery. She uncovers a lot of sordid details along the way, and starts to feel useful and smart and like she's good at something, a feeling which has eluded her most of her life.

Along the way, she reconnects with someone who broke her heart 7 years before, and for whom she still carries a torch. Evan McKenna is the private investigator the murder victim sometimes hired to find details which eluded her, and he is, briefly, a suspect in Kate's mind.

I honestly don't know if I was supposed to root for her to leave her boring, safe husband for Evan, if I was supposed to hope she'd finally be able to quell all those old, stupid feelings, or if I was supposed to believe she'd strike out on her own at the end of the book. Considering most of her problems in the beginning of the book revolve around her having to take care of the kids by herself, I hope that's not the answer. Nor am I entirely comfortable rooting for Ben, the husband. Declarations of how much he'll change, of bending to please the wifey, rarely end up with a blissful marriage, and I saw no indications this would end with a major overhaul to Ben's personality. Nor did I get the sense Evan was anything but a complication, or that he would be anything but another mouth to feed for poor, put-upon Kate.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the resolution to the murder mystery, either. The murderer worked so hard behind the scenes to stay off Kate's radar that the reveal felt like it came out of left field. There needed to be more direct intervention.

Kate's investigation turns up another mystery, too, and the resolution to that one was even less satisfying. I didn't see what triggered the person who eventually fesses up, there, to do so. It felt like it was dropped in there because an editor noted that there were too many questions remaining at the end of the book, and so a solution was cobbled together. It felt messy.

This is not the first of Jennifer Weiner's books I've read, which is good. If it was, I wouldn't want to pick up anything else she'd written. Instead, I'll write this off as a disappointing anomaly, and try something else she's written, at some point.

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