Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Not a mystery

This is not turning into a book blog, really it's not, but I needed to talk about this, and I forgot to talk about it at playgroup. (And also, until I can get John to upload the pictures of Olivia's fiesta to the internet from the school computers, I don't have an easy bloggable family topic.)
I read The Mystery of Breathing by Perri Klass last night (from 9:30 p.m. until 1:15 a.m., but that is beside the point), and it was so disappointing. So disappointing. I love mysteries, and this looked like a doctor mystery (with which I have a valid interest), and I wanted to find a new author to read and love, and . . . and. . . and. . . I was so disappointed.

It has a sex scene about 3/4 of the way through, which is easily skipped (I did) and doesn't affect the plot, just in case anyone wants to read the book after I have thoroughly un-recommended it. (You can't say I didn't warn you--on several levels.)

The book is about a neonatologist (Maggie) in a large Boston hospital who starts receiving poison pen letters. She's a strong-willed, ambitious, driven, but kind-hearted protagonist, so she has the reader's sympathy, and the letters are completely without merit.
These are my disappointments:
1. The reader figures out who is writing the letters, and the detective (who is strangely, for a mystery, not the hero) figures it out circumstantially, but the hospital refuses to do anything, and the book leaves it at that. Completely unresolved.
2. The writing style is in the second-person, frequently referring to the reader as "you," which should make it more personal, but at the same time, the author has these strange chapters of confusing non-explanation, which alienated at least me. (Of course, we must consider the time of day that I was reading this book. Very easily confused, so maybe everyone else could get it.)
3. Not only does the hospital refuse to do anything about the poison pen writer (who is a doctor), but it seems there is no consequence at all for this guy. I like my justice cut and dried in books, especially mystery novels. Put the bad guy in jail, or kill him off--that's satisfying. He even breaks into her (Maggie's) house, accidentally poisons a baby (long story, not worth explaining), helps the baby, but makes her mom think she's been kidnapped, and NOTHING happens. What good is fiction, if we can't do something to this guy.
4. The book winds itself down with Maggie slowly going crazy over the horrible letters she's receiving and the horrible things being put on posters all around the hospital. She has breakdowns, and she doesn't get a promotion she deserves, and she lashes out at people. Just a tad on the unbelievable side, at least the way it's written.
4. The book ends with Maggie pregnant, after years of being unable to conceive. Dumb. How does that fix anything? I guess it may explain the breakdowns, of course, but it just felt like another unsatisfying twist.
And that's the word I would use to describe this book: unsatisfying. Certainly not worth staying up too late to read. But (to defend myself), I just kept thinking it would get better. It had to get better. (And, to be fair, the descriptions of the NICU and the nurses and the procedures and the interactions with the babies and their parents were interesting. They were the only redeeming features of the book.)
So, there you go. I think my review has been extremely helpful. If any of you had The Mystery of Breathing on your must-read list, you can take it off. Unless you like the feeling of being left hanging--then this is the book for you.
I'm just wondering, in the interest of full disclosure, what book would you want to "un-recommend"? (So I can take them off my list.)


Lyndsay said...

Please please please do not read anything by Gregory Maguire. I read Wicked when I became obsessed with the musical, and was sorely disappointed (and we'll say disgusted too). Being an optimist, I also tried to read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. ALSO BAD.

Emilee said...

Oh, thanks, Lyndsay. I've had that on my list for a while, since I've heard great things about the musical. Crossed off.

Cynthia said...

What a disappointment! I hate spending time reading a book and just hoping that the ending makes it all worth while, and then get to the ending and be annoyed. That has happend to me too. No fun!
(is that why the kids were in PJs today- did you want to sleep in after last night?) Either way Olivia's pjs were way cute!

Emilee said...

Actually, it was Tuesday night that I read the book, but they didn't sleep well last night and slept in this morning. I'm not about to wake kids up unless I have to.

Story Family said...

Unfortunately, (I'm talkin' major bummer-ly), it seems every book I've read lately has been a major bomber. Get ready to cross these off:

The Kite Runner - very well written, but so sad it made me want to crawl in a hole (and take my kids with me) to hide from this evil, sad world.

Eat Love Pray-the author is a great writer, but is way out there religiously, sexually, and politically. Way too much for me.

The Road - Bad from start to finish.

Into the Wild- Interesting enough but completely pointless. Just like the sad main character's life. Pointless and useless.

I guess it's back to Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter...happy reading!

katiemama said...

I also read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and got half way through and got weirded out. I hate it when you invest your time and attention to a book, and then end up depressed, angry or unimpressed. I need a book to wow and excite me, or at least leave me feeling good.
I don't know how you can read a book in 3 1/2 hours. I get so engrossed that I have to figure out ever detail of every page before moving on. I need lessons. That's probably why I have 4-5 unfinished books in my house, staring me down.

Liz said...

Lady Chatterley's Lover. Now, I know the title should have been a very good warning of it being the type of book I didn't want to read, but I kept noticing the book on "Greatest Books" lists, so I read it. The entire plot is about this lady who takes on a few lovers (go figure). Boring, dull, and depressing. After reading that book I changed my mind about wanting to read all the books on the "Greatest Books" list I had found.