Book Quote:

The Interestings,” said Ash. “That works.”

So it was decided. “From this day forward, because we are clearly the most interesting people who ever fucking lived,” said Ethan, “because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts, let us be known as the Interestings. And let everyone who meets us fall down dead in our path from just how fucking interesting we are.” In a ludicrously ceremonial moment they lifted paper cups and joints. “

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (MAR 24, 2014)

The greatest gift that any writer can give her readers is providing them with a fictional world they can immerse – and ultimately lose – themselves in.

That’s precisely what Meg Wolitzer achieves in The Interestings, surely the most fully-realized and satisfying book of her career.

This panoramic saga focuses on a group of Baby Boomers from the time they meet at a camp for the creatively gifted as teenagers through middle age. The bond that draws these divergent characters together is powerful and special; they dub themselves “The Interestings.” And the bond, for the most part, is stretched, sustained, and redefined as they age.

There is Jules, the key character, an aspiring comic actress-turned-therapist who attended the camp on scholarship . Her best friend is Ash – she and her twin Goodman have lived a charmed and fortunate life – and eventually marries their mutual friend Ethan. Ethan, the creator of an animated series called Figland, becomes successful beyond their wildest dreams. And then there is Jonah, the son of a Judy Collins type songwriter, who must navigate the boundaries of attachment at the start of the AIDS era.

At the core of this novel, there is an exploration of what it means to be special. As one character ultimately says about the camp that brought them together, “It made you feel special. What do I know – maybe it actually made you special. And specialness – everyone wants it. But Jesus, is it the most essential thing there is? Most people aren’t talented. So what are they supposed to do – kill themselves?”

The spotlight is squarely on two couples – Jules and her ultrasound technician husband Dennis and their friends Ash and Ethan – as the lure of money and fame threaten to place them in different stratospheres. The themes center on longing and envy and self-hatred and grandiosity and failure and success…and how the definition of what it means to be “interesting” changes as life goes on. Jules says to Dennis,..meeting in childhood can seem like it’s the best thing – everyone’s equal, and you form bonds based only on how much you like each other. But later on, having met in childhood can turn out to have been the worst thing, because you and your friends might have nothing to say to each other anymore…”

The Interestings is cemented in a transformative time, touching on many of the milestones of a unique generation: the rise of feminism, the confusion and terror of being gay at the cusp of the AIDS era, and perhaps most of all, being alive during that tipping point when “portfolios” shifted meaning from art portfolios to financial portfolios. It’s authentic, it’s genuine, and it’s so good I didn’t want it to end.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 1003 readers
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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March 24, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, New York City, Reading Guide

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