(E-PUB) æ The Scenic Route: A Novel ñ eBook or E-pub free

All I could think of while I was reading this book was a I need to stop getting book recommendations from Oprah Magazine or Real Simple and b this author really teaches writing at Columbia I suppose if I was a middle age woman plodding along in life and going through some sort of crisis or hoping like hell I soon would and therefore my life would start to be interesting then I would have liked this book But, I am not and I wouldn t recommend the book to anyone other than that target demographic It is trite, overtly sentimental and lacking any sort of purpose Much like the protagonist in the book Sylvia is a recently unemployed, aimless fortysomething that falls into a relationship with an unavailable man while on vacation in Italy The following days, weeks, whatever it was, felt like years as I turned the pages Interspersed with this meandering prose was memories of Sylvia s past interwoven with hisotrical tales of her Jewish relatives It was an awkward, boring read and I am glad to be done with it.I have to go pick up a classic now and rediscover what constitutes a good book and is worth my precious time Sorry to be so hard on the book I did give it one star because the interview with the author at the end of the book was moderately redeeming. When I read reviews like witty and poignant, a brilliant creation, and a most virtuoso performance, my interest is peaked and I give a book try Review fail Kirshenbaum s protagonist is hardly witty in a rambling narrative filled with non sequiturs, she loses her job, travels Europe and takes up with a married man Snippets from her past, oddities from her luggage, insights from her lover are all jumbled together with no point in sight Not a trip I want to retake. I loved how the format of this novel reflects its overarching theme The book meanders through time literally taking the scenic route, just as the two main characters take the scenic route through Europe Along the way, pieces of the past are revealed through flashbacks in seemingly random order I wanted to LOVE this novel, and I almost did I found myself rereading sentences over and over again, identifying strongly with certain insights into the human experience I saved a few lines in my quote file e.g., It was effortless, Semille s weeping, because this sorrow, which she carried with her from long ago and far away, contained no rage and no surprise Binnie Kirshenbaum is a perceptive and original writer, admirably so In an interview at the back of the book, she mentions that a critic once called her a stand up tragic, and the description is quite apt That s exactly what kept me from LOVING this novel The characters were all deeply flawed as we all are, human as we are , but no one overcame any of their flaws, and the optimist in me always wants them to It seemed that all the characters were ignorant of the very traits that kept them from any measure of happiness and none made any effort to understand, acknowledge, or overcome their own flaws And I liked them all enough that I wanted them to make different choices and meet different ends. I had been told that this book was a european vacation romance So, I of course thought, What a fabulous summer read Then, I open the book, and nearly the first sentence is something along the lines of This is the story of Henry and I..blahblahblahdidn t work out Bang goes the romance Strike one.Then, guess what Henry s MARRIED So, let s check into a hotel I don t care if he s married, it s vacation, she doesn t come back until September, blah blah blah, because, ya know, it ll be FUN Strike two.So, instead of FOCUSING ON WHAT WAS SUPPOST TO BE A ROMANCE, what does the lady Sylvia do She starts BLOODY TELLING STORIES ABOUT ALL OF THE MESSED UP PEOPLE THAT SHE S SURROUNDED BY So, let s not focus on what s left of my expectations, let s talk about how messed up, what a horrid childhood, all the scathing remarks that you so kindly bestow upon every unfortunate soul who wanders into your path Strike three.So, I suppose that this could have been a good book, even if it wasn t at all what I had been expecting, if the authors writing style wasn t the literary equivalent of modern abstract art Italic interjections run wild through the book, in the middle of sentences here s a weak example I walked on the on top of mount smokey mountain.Yeah, that s definently gonna make you blink. Binnie Kirshenbaum s new novel looks like another year in Provence or another romance baked under the Tuscan sun It begins with a recession fantasy A middle age, divorced woman gets laid off but uses her severance money for a trip to Italy There, as usually happens, she strikes up a conversation with a handsome millionaire at a cafe and spends the rest of the summer driving around Europe with him, staying in the cutest inns and savoring the finest wines Given this setup, you d expect the cover of The Scenic Route to show a shirtless steroid abuser embracing a mildly resistant lingerie model in a ripening vineyard.But in this case, the opening is something of a bait and switch, and the switch is far better than the bait Sylvia Landsman s tour of Europe turns out to be just a thin frame on which Kirshenbaum hangs several generations of family stories Florence, Prague and Slovenia whiz by as they take the scenic route loop de loop and fast, as if we were in hot pursuit of a horsefly Every few days, Sylvia points randomly at the map, and they re off again, but this isn t a travelogue, and we don t hear much about each town Once you ve seen it, you ve seen it, Sylvia shrugs We didn t catch sight of much scenery other than d j vu type sensations of evergreen trees and garden gnomes Fortunately, her hunky new companion, Henry, is a good listener, the perfect audience, in fact, for a woman who wants to talk her way across the Continent If there s a movie version of The Scenic Route, the actor who plays Henry won t have to memorize than a page of dialogue.The hard to believe pleasure of this novel depends entirely upon the wit and poignancy of Sylvia s digressive patter a Jewish woman s version of Colson Whitehead s recent Sag Harbor Her quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic stories flow one after another, anecdotes nested in anecdotes, interrupted by asides and parenthetical observations, and punctuated by historical footnotes about Shalimar perfume, Raisinets or martinis.I can t imagine what Kirshenbaum told people who asked, So, what s your novel about and yet it s continually engaging, the illusion of artlessness that only the disciplined artist can carry off We hear of the neighbor girl who accidentally decapitates her own mother, the uncle whose hands wander too far, the friend who decides to get out of debt by borrowing 10,000 for dance lessons at Arthur Murray Making love to Henry during a lightning storm in Austria reminds Sylvia of Great Aunt Hannah getting shock treatment in New York, which sparks the tale of Luigi Galvani in 18th century Bologna discovering the electrical nature of frogs nerves The Autobahn can t match Sylvia s winding, high speed narrative, delivered in prose that mimics all the detours and incongruities of the spoken word We were alone, the two of us, in his car, driving through Tuscany alone, the two of us, in a world of our own design, a world not unlike the desktop biosphere you can buy at Sharper Image Or a snow dome Other people Who were they to us Other people, they were the stuff of stories to tell they were the characters who populated our stories Much of what Sylvia describes involves herself the quiet dissolution of her passionless marriage, her dangerous neglect of a close friend But other stories, drawn from the sepia past, sound like fables There s the great grandfather who invented shampoo and another who left home, someplace like Fiddler on the Roofville, Poland, with a handful of zlotys in his pocket, and all alone he set sail for America Aunt Thea dropped out of Vassar during the Depression to marry the son of a wealthy family that kept their lives stagnating for decades Sylvia s namesake, Aunt Semille, escaped the Holocaust and came to New York with stories meant to obliterate the past rather than preserve it But that, too, is all part of this thoughtful meditation on the way we construct our lives Sylvia reminds us that storytellers, like nature, abhor a vacuum More often than not, she admits, we don t know what really happened, and what we say happened is likely to be a reconstruction of events rather than a restoration We imagine as much as we remember Early in their road trip, Sylvia asks Henry somewhat defensively, Does there have to be a point to a story Clearly, she s speaking for her creator, chair of the graduate writing program at Columbia University Kirshenbaum wants us to understand that there doesn t have to be a point, but that doesn t mean a story is pointless Something serious is happening beneath Sylvia s chronic gabbiness Like Scheherazade, she says, we all tell stories as a means of staying alive, and that s a theme this novel returns to in a variety of thoughtful ways.One of the most touching ones takes place in a New York hospital when a neurologist advises Sylvia to tell her father old family tales as a way of rebuilding his damaged memory It s a poignant reversal of the way Sylvia began her life, captivated by her father s bedtime stories, even as her mother told them to turn off the light Conspirators, my father and I, and he lowered his voice because you can t leave off a story just at the point when, from off in the distance, Little Sylvia hears the howl of the wolves Kirshenbaum has endowed her narrator with the raconteur s greatest gift, that sense of imminent revelation that keeps us from wondering, Are we there yet Spiked with wit, scrubbed free of sentimentality, these tales of love and loss, courage and cowardice, transport us back into the pages of our own lives and our own families There is cruelty to memory, Sylvia says, the way there is an ache after a dream So true, and just the sort of insight that makes this bittersweet novel a perfect companion for summer.http www.washingtonpost.com wp dyn This book had such a slow start that I almost put it down many times The last third of the book was much better The novel definitely takes the scenic route in getting to the plot and is very disjointed and frustrating at times All in all, it s not a bad book but I didn t think it was excellent It seemed like a very rough draft written at many different times instead of a cohesive collection of stories interwoven with the main plot. It felt unfinished in so many areas I like a little suspense but I also like the story to be told fully It had so much potential to be an amazing book and then just ended. Pleasant, entertaining, good vacation book. (E-PUB) õ The Scenic Route: A Novel ⚜ Divorced, Alone, And Unexpectedly Unemployed, Sylvia Landsman Flees To Italy, Where She Meets Henry, A Wistful, Married, Middle Aged Expatriate Taking Off On A Grand Tour Of Europe Bankrolled With His Wife S Money, Henry And Sylvia Follow A Circuitous Route Around The Continent As Sylvia Entertains Henry With Stories Of Her Peculiar Family And Her Damaged Friends, Of Dead Ducks And Alma Mahler Her Narrative Is A Tapestry Of Remembrances And Regretsand Her Secret Shame A Small, Cowardly Sin Of Omission Yet When The Opportunity Arises For Sylvia And Henry To Do Something Small But Brave, The Refrain If Only Returns To Haunt Her, Leaving Sylvia With One Story Of Love Lived And Lost I should have taken the advice of the some of the other readers when they said the first chapter was a disaster, and stop reading there I found the book to be lackluster at best The two characters driving around Europe are both portrayed as completely lacking any personality, and were very one dimensional All the other characters in the book were crazy, or mean, or both In between the multitudes of mini stories going on the author would inject these non fiction passages that were sometimes unrelated to any of the stories going on One non fiction piece was not researched enough, and gave erroneous information on Zelda Fitzgerald I found the whole book frustrating from start to finish, all the while hoping it would get better It did not get better, and had a very predictable ending So, if you read the first chapter and don t get a warm and fuzzy feeling, just stop reading I really wish I hadn t wasted my time.