The novel itself has very few redeeming qualities. On the purely literary side, it’s too long, it suffers from too much telling and not enough showing – even a considerable part of the dialogue is rendered in the author’s voice, the characters are marred by inconsistencies that are more writing errors than idiosyncrasies and the central mystery is underdeveloped in its emotional and ethical aspect and unexciting as a proper mystery; and the resolution is very weak, practically impossible to explain psychologically in a satisfactory way. There just wasn’t enough build-up of either the characters or their relationships with each other to make Chloe’s decision at the end convincing. I feel the book as a whole lacked psychological depth and sounded downright naive with regard to human interaction at times (especially the relationship between the ex husband and wife). The ethical side is simplistic and shallow – it basically consists of doing a bad thing and feeling badly about it, told declaratively by the third person limited narrator, without any nuance or letting the characters explain their feelings of guilt or remorse in their own words. I was left with the distinct impression that the author lacked the artistic chops to deal with the moral issues he raised.
I found the style of telling the story very annoying with its constant jumping back in time, sometimes by mere minutes, to mention something relevant, leaving the impression of a disorganised writing process. The switch between past and present tense was also very cumbersome to the reading process. The storytelling’s greatest sin however was that the timeline was completely jacked. The whole novel was rife with inconsistencies in terms of the timeline of events – on the small scale (Elson is gardening under the rays of the setting sun and in the next moment his wife looks at the clock and it’s one pat midnight, even though there’s nothing to distance these two moments in time, on the contrary, they’re explicitly aligned), to the grand scale (Chloe’s story spans her first two years in college, but at the end of the book it says it’s been only a year since they all dined together before her first semester in college).
On the extra-literary side, the book has some glaring issues with social complexities that the author clearly did not know enough about. For example, the white family’s problems are varied and complex, relating to their past decisions, regrets and the toll daily life takes on initially exciting relationships, while the Indian family’s stem exclusively from their Indianness and their preoccupation with saving face. The „good“ person of colour is the one who doesn’t make much noise and is „balanced“, while the angry social justice warrior turns out to be <spoiler>a nigh terrorist, almost murdering hard-working white boys, and a traitor to his own to boot.</spoiler> A white boy who’s immigrated from Northern Ireland is just as socially impeded as an Indian and a Korean immigrant according to the author, as he says so directly; the only black character is a criminal, smuggling people across the border, and ogles the young white protagonist (this serves no literary purpose whatsoever – she doesn’t feel threatened, because Raja is with her, it isn’t used in any way to further the plot, it’s just there to show that Theo ogled her legs and breasts, because that’s the kind of man he is.); the Indian character is obsessed with honour and not disappointing his family; the lesbian is a feminist and tries to cockblock the protagonist.
The cover is beautiful though. The only reason I picked it up was for the 2015 reading challenge: a book based solely on its cover. Sadly, it didn’t deliver beyond that.
И няколко думи за превода, който също не беше на желаното ниво: непоследователен стил, тромави изречения с нествойствена за българския език структура, откровени грешки, пропуснати при редакцията и корекцията, и няколко непроверени понятия, които се проверяват с един клик в Google Images, като French toast, което е пържени филийки, а не „френски сандвичи“ – което не само че е неточен превод, но и не говори нищо на българския читател. Друг пример е „шест стъпки под земята“, когато „два метра под земята“ си е установен български израз, дори ако подминем факта, че всички мерни единици е желателно да се преобразуват в използваните в страната, на чийто език се превежда.