Review: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

interestings“The only option for a creative person was constant motion – a lifetime of busy whirligigging in a generally forward direction, until you couldn’t do it any longer.” 

The end of any major, shared experience, especially one which coincides with the end of adolescence, is bound to induce some degree of ennui. In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer has shown how this impacts the lives of six friends. Time and time again, the author shows how well she understands the creative personality type, especially as these characters grapple with the varying levels (and definitions) of success among them.

I took to Wolitzer’s writing immediately, her intuitive and compelling perceptions of her characters’ unfolding lives. Her storytelling is delivered in a way I found captivating: Time spiraled forward, overlapping slightly, circling around again, then moving forward and repeating. It reminded me of the Spirograph kits that were so popular when I was a kid (and incidentally, during the time these characters were at camp).

One especially touching moment for me was when Jules was straightening the house before her friend Ash came to visit. Jules’s mother realizes that she is doing so because she’s embarrassed by the modest home. Then Jules notices that her mom has made that realization, that she may have caused embarrassment where there was none before. Multiple impressions of the same moment; readers are treated to this kind of depth throughout the novel.

My only grievance was the undercurrent of petty jabs toward one particular political leaning (for the record, not one to which I belong). These subtle derisions were part of the general narrative, not attached to a particular character or enhancing the story. They were usually easy to dismiss. But there was one aimed at Reagan in his Alzheimer’s-stricken old age that I felt was such a low blow, even the beautiful writing around it couldn’t temper its ugly spirit.

The Interestings is a fully fleshed-out, character-driven novel, and a long one at that (just shy of 500 pages). I found the characters’ lives realistic and fairly interesting, but for the most part, the storytelling itself is what kept me engaged.

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