Friday, May 26, 2006

Once Upon a Day

This novel, by Lisa Tucker, has been only recently published. This story has a great "what if" premise: "What if you were raised in complete isolation, protected from every possible threat, and then suddenly had to cope with the modern world?" Of course, the plot is rather more complicated than that, and with the viewpoint shifting from time to time, it's hard to know where to start. With Stephen the cab driver? Or Dorothea, who knows only Father, Jimmy, and Grandma for as long as she can remember? Or Lucy, whose fairy-tale life took a tragic turn once upon a day?

I have mixed emotions about the whole thing, but looking back, mostly negative. I liked the storyline, by and large, but not enough to read it again. Father was a well-developed character, Lucy and Stephen less complete, Jimmy a mere cipher. Dorothea I find somewhat unbelieveable. How could a girl so sheltered and so willing to accept the reality her father presented adapt so completely to the modern world? She has panic attacks with disturbing frequency, and yet she drops the manners and morals of her Ozzie-and-Harriet upbringing without a qualm and embarks on an affair with remarkable speed and self-possession. Right. That would happen. And, while we're on the topic, I am bored bored bored with all the open discussion of everyone's sex life. Can we stop pretending that a relationship is defined by the physical, and close the bedroom door?

And in the end, after all the sordidness and upheaval, all the mental illness, drug addiction, kidnapping, near-death, heart-wrenching grief, rebellion, hostility, anger, blah blah blah---all this is tied up in a neat little package in the end. Oh, there is a disclaimer--all this will take time, etc., but you know everything is on the right track after all, and everyone will settle down to a pleasant and healing reality. Pardon me while I lift a skeptical eyebrow. Life just isn't that simple.

And so, I cannot recommend this story. If you find the premise intriguing, and it was, ask me and I will give you the short version, complete with thematic elements. Meanwhile, go read something else.


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