Saturday, April 22, 2017

Marlena - by Julie Buntin: Book Review

Title: Marlena
Author: Julie Buntin
Nr. Pages: 288
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Release Date: 4.04.2017

{This review contains spoilers.}

Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are.

This is the story of an alcoholic woman who had a friend with a serious drug addiction back when they were teenagers in high-school. This is the plot.

The writing is good, I liked the words the author used to tell the story. However, some things made me raise an eyebrow.

For a person who is so clingy to the past and who can't seem to move past the friendship that lasted less than a year and a half when she was fifteen years old, a friendship that was the basis of her alcohol addiction, Cat sure managed to create a good life. I was surprised that she could not control her drinking problem, but this did not prevent her from making a career, receiving promotions after promotions, getting married and maintaining a relationship for over ten years, and fooling many people around her. Maybe this is possible, but I found it hard to move past and buy into it.

Although it doesn't usually bother me, I wanted to know the year Cat was living in in the present. Because 2016 or 2017 can't be with those mentions of technology. As she is telling the story of what happened with Marlena twenty years before, Cat is almost 36 years old. She mentioned Greg posting a video on YouTube at her prompting back then. YouTube was created in 2005. If she is telling the story in 2016, in 2005 she would have been 23-24 years old, and not 15. This was irksome, however the author kept refering to this aspect.

I can't understand two things: why was the mention of the girl in the library necessary if it led nowhere and why decide to create the whole plot around Sal's upcoming meeting with Cat if the whole meeting turned out to be anticlimactic. I was expecting those two things to reveal something, and it probably would have brought a fresh breath to the plot, since the past retelling got monotonous with all that time wasting, getting drunk and high, and classes skipping. And Sal is so normal, not at all as affected as you would have expected based on Cat's dramatic perspective on things.

Despite all these, I kept reading. It kept me curious, but I wasn't satisfied with where it took the story. The public for this novel is someone with a similar background and life, maybe they would relate better with the characters.

I received a free e-book copy of this book from the publisher Henry Holt & Company via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own based on the reading of the novel.

List of Characters:
Marlena Joyner
Cat (Catherine)
Jimmy - Cat's brother
Roger - Jimmy and Cat's mother's second husband
Ryder - Marlena's boyfriend
Greg + Tidbit - a couple, friends of Cat, Marlena, Ryder's
Randall Joyner - Marlena's father
Sal Joyner - Marlena's younger brother
Bolt - Randall's friend, Marlena's "boyfriend"
Micah & Courtney - schoolmates
Mr. Ratner - science teacher
Liam - Cat's husband - New York

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