Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to Be Lost: Disappointing story

How to Be Lost: A NovelHow to Be Lost: A Novel by Amanda Eyre Ward

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book did not live up to my expectations. I enjoyed "Sleep Before Heaven," and through much of this book I found the writing appealing.

It's the story of a family with three sisters, the youngest of whom disappears at the age of 5. As expected, the rest of the family never recovers from that loss. No trace of the lost sister was ever found, until the events that occurred in the story.

Ward appeared to be styling this book as a mystery. Suddenly, letters from an unknown woman appear between the chapters. Later on a dream sequence appears, providing more background to the life of the mother in the novel, but only a limited amount of background.

The oldest sister, an apparent-alcoholic cocktail waitress living in New Orleans, follows a lead to Montana to find her sister. She meets a woman, Charlene, who she is convinced is the lost Ellie.

The middle sister's life appears shallow and lacking direction. Her character is not ever adequately filled in.

I found many inconsistencies in this book, as if it had not been adequately edited. The protagonist appears to be very impatient with her mother, and at first does not seem that upset when she dies, but later on seems devastated by it, and then appears to be much closer to her mother than originally described.

Ward gives us the impression that the daughters led a deeply unhappy family life, because of the unpredictable nature of their father's temper and apparent neglect by their mother. Yet later in the book the narrator describes her very early childhood (before Ellie was born) as happy. What happened to change all that? How did the father become scary? Did he find out about the wife's affair?

Most of the characters in this novel are not particularly likable or well fleshed out. The most intriguing character was Agnes, but even she was a mystery.

I kept reading until the end, assuming that the mysteries would be solved and I would have a better understanding of how things flowed together. Instead, at the ending, I wasn't sure if I understood the story at all. Who was Charlene? Just some runaway girl? The ending felt very dissapointing, and my rating of the book fell from 4 stars to 2.

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