By Sarah Winman
Okay, I’ll start off with the positives about this novel:
I love animals & for a very brief amount of time there was a talking rabbit in it named God. Short being just a few chapters, despite having the novel named after him.
I liked the “child” version of one of the main characters, Jenny Penny.
That ends all the positive things that I liked about this novel. Not impressive at all for a 324page book. Frankly, I didn’t understand this novel & even after completing it, I seriously, have no idea what its even about. I just didn’t get it.
The novel had way to much going on! It was almost like the author wanted to include EVERY SINGLE CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC POSSIBLE, as well as, including all major historical occurrences that have happened between the late 1960’s up to today. People read books to believe in them, this would’ve been the most UNLUCKY family EVER, if it was even remotely believable. In my opinion, it would’ve been better for the author if she had focused on one or two topics & developed that situation/characters, instead of jumping all over the place with no real direction.
I’m, truly, not even sure where to begin in describing this novel because its like describing a train wreck. It’s got pieces & parts all over the place with no real beginning or ending. So, I’ve decided to stick with giving short summaries on the main characters, since the novel had a lot of “stuff” happen to the characters.
Elly: the main character. She starts the novel as a young girl who was molested by her Holocaust-surviving neighbor (a character & situation which I thought was completely unnecessary to have in the novel…fit no where & made zero sense) & this “secret” served as the basis for her whole screwed up life, a secret that she shared with her brother, which made them extremely close (weirdly close). The actual truth about the “secret” was never revealed to the reader, it was assumed & heavily hinted at, but never actually stated. To help her develop a “healthy” relationship with someone, her brother buys her a rabbit which she names, God. This rabbit talks to her & (apparently) is a big part of her healing, however, he only lasts a few chapters before meeting his untimely death after being run over by a car (I would guess if he was such a big, key figure in the novel the author would’ve made him stick around a little longer). She grows up to be a columnist & then a novelist, where she writes about her childhood (fuzzy on these details). Really all I know about this character is that she says, “F*@K” a lot & has sex with random people all the time.
Jenny Penny: Elly’s childhood friend. She was raised by her drunk, prostitute mother & eventually loses contact with Elly when they have to move, change their identities & join the witness protection program due to Jenny Penny’s mother’s crazy ex-boyfriend. Elly & Jenny Penny eventually reconnect as adults while Jenny Penny is in prison serving a sentence for murdering her husband. Oh’ and she can also hear God talk (the rabbit…not actually “God”).
Joe: Elly’s older brother. He realizes he’s gay at an early age & that makes him socially awkward & withdrawn as a teenager. The author created him to be the stereotypical “gay” man (which I thought was kind of offensive & pathetic). He liked to wear glitter & sang in a glee club when he moved to NYC as an adult. He developed amnesia on September 11th, 2001, although, it wasn’t from being involved in the World Trade Center attacks. He went for a walk in the early morning, after partying & drinking at a club all night long & was beat up, mugged, and left for dead. The family assumes he was killed in the attacks because he was supposed to be in the south tower that morning (why a glee singer would be doing business at the WTC I don’t know), only to receive a call that he’s been in the hospital for 3weeks after suffering from amnesia. He has no idea who he is, who his family is, his memories are gone & he’s basically an empty slate. But, yet again, the amnesia (like everything else in this novel) only lasts a few chapters & his memory completely returns after he has sex with his childhood sweetheart. Apparently sex can perform miraculous feats! We, the reader, never learn what happened the night he was mugged & the amnesia was never talked about & subsequently forgotten (amnesia…forgotten…har har har) after the recovery.
Charlie: Joe’s childhood love. He developed a relationship with Joe as a teenager, but that was cut short when he was kidnapped by a Muslim terrorist group, went off the radar for a few chapters & then reappeared as an adult in NYC when he ran into Joe one night at a party. We never learn what happened to him during the kidnap & how he ended up in NYC.
That’s really the big main characters. There’s other, smaller ones-like Elly’s parents, who transport their children from a poor life living in a poor part of England (which I didn’t even realize the novel took place in England until 100pages in) to eventually run a posh B&B in the English countryside (after winning the lottery, of course). The dad happens to be a lawyer who can’t get over a case he lost where the result was a young girl being killed, & the mother who is a closet lesbian & in love with her sister-in-law…which the husband thinks is okay (again…weird!). Nancy, the lesbian aunt (and object of Elly’s mother’s lust) is a famous, film actress. And there’s Ginger & Arthur, who I really don’t know what their role in the story is other than they lived permanently at the B&B.
This could, quite possibly, be one of the WORST books I’ve ever actually finished (and that’s saying a lot because I suffered through “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom). On Goodreads (www.goodreads.com , an online book club), most readers rated it 3 (outta 5) stars, which I think is being VERY generous, however, considering I did actually finish the novel, the lowest I will go is 2 (1 is reserved for novels I just can’t finish). I think this novel was a New York Time’s bestseller, so I’m sure at some point it’ll be turned into a movie.
On the other hand though, if you cast Jessica Alba as Elly & Nicholas Cage as Joe, their acting might bring out the terribleness (is that even a word) of this novel to its true depth.