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Distinguished Correspondent
chris227
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I think a main conflict in the story is the traditional vs the modern. Lil and her friends are shown to be so modern but then Lil suddenly decided to get married (and wear am emgagement ring!) and shockingly has a traditional wedding that includes cutting and feeding each other wedding cake and tossing a bouquet.  Lil's friends all scoff at the tradition and wonder what has become of their friend, yet we later learn that Sadie and Tal are dating and the Beth and Will are engaged.  There's all this feminist talk and discussion about hyphenated names but after their married we discover that Lil just submits to Tuck, like the whole scene after Tuck was fired.   

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CLRobins42
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I was also disappointed to learn they were suddenly engaged without seeing any follow-up interaction after the sex scene.

 

Like a lot of the other posters, I also had trouble with the first chapter.  I didn't like the writing style at first, but it did grow on my by chapter 3.  I also didn't like the characters too much at first, but they've also grown on me.  Although, I found it very difficult in Chapter 1 to tell the girls apart.  I had to keep going back and re-reading to figure out who was who.

 

One thing I did find jarring was the difference between my first impression of Beth and who she really was.  When she seemed so incredulous about Lil's engagement ring, I thought she was going to be a strong character with staunch feminist ideas, but she turned out to be very lost and even spineless. 

 

I'm curious to see what happened that led Will to propose, and I'd really like to learn more about Sadie.

 

While I almost didn't get through the first chapter, I feel like the story has picked up its pace now, and I'm interested in these characters and their fates. 

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Thayer
Posts: 195
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I find it interesting that the story begins at a wedding. Of all of the settings that the author could have chosen, this seems to hold some importance. To me, in the beginning, it was hard to follow the story as I didn't feel I had enough insight into each character to understand where they were coming from. I don't think that everyone was so much jealous of the marriage as that they just didn't understand the reasoning behind such a decision. But, again, I don't feel able to make a judgement based on the limited depth given to each character.

 

As to the "sex scene," I think the main point the author tries to make to Beth's character is her need to be dominated. Several comments have been made as to why Beth would "be so stupid" as to let this happen, but yet, happen it did and with the engagement it would seem that in Will, Beth has found someone with whom she can relinquish control.

~~Dawn
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.
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Dances_through_Books
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I am enjoying the book so far.  The wedding scene was a great way to open the book, and introduce the characters personalities, hopes, and worries. I believe that deep down the girls wanted to be happy for Lil, even though Lil's marriage was a form of betrayal to the girls and the ideas they held so firmly while in school.  We must remember that some of their mothers were the feminists of the 60's. To belong to someone else as Beth puts it in the first chapter, "... marks the death of feminist principals, learned and guarded so fiercely in school." Lil's monstruous status symbol of a ring, in Beth's eyes really is a symbol of Tuck's ownership of Lil.  Lil was the most outspoken of the girls against marriage, which is why this event comes as such a shock to her friends, and family.

A favorite passage of mine from the first chapter is: "...their obstreperous daughter was submitting to the ancient rite of marriage." 

 

 I agree with the majority on Beth and Will's sex scene. I related to Beth in so many ways, up until that scene. I understand that the author was trying to create an event for Beth to "hurry up and catch up" to the rest of her friends. She really felt like a little girl, with her choice of dress, her mannerisms, and her lack of experiences compared to the other girls. These girls are in the middle of the age where society pressures them to "hurry up and get married and start a family," or hurry up and finish your education and pursue your successful career. As a member of this generation, as I watch my friends married off one by one; I understand the sense of betrayal one feels, and the fear of losing all your friends, and having to "catch up" with the rest of your generation.

However, I feel Beth took a huge risk by going home with Will without really knowing him. She could have been raped or killed, she didn't know his intentions. I felt Beth is too intelligent of a person, and too stuck to her convictions and morales to stoop to such an idiotic and irresponsible decision.

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gosox
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎10-14-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five

[ Edited ]

CLRobins42 wrote:

One thing I did find jarring was the difference between my first impression of Beth and who she really was.  When she seemed so incredulous about Lil's engagement ring, I thought she was going to be a strong character with staunch feminist ideas, but she turned out to be very lost and even spineless. 

 


I agree with CLRobins42's impression that Beth seems to be lost and even spineless. When I looked back on my notes, I found that I had marked the passages on p60 where Beth reflects on Tal and Sadie's relationship. She notes that "No one, she thought sickly, would ever love her like that. Dave hadn't, Will wouldn't."

On the same page she comes to the realization that "they had all been living their lives without her . . . "

I guess I could say that I feel somewhat sorry for Beth, however, I am finding it hard to really like any of these characters.

 

On p 78-79 it seems as if the honeymoon is coming to an end for Lil. She is questioning his perception of the ways things are going for him at work. By the end of Chapter 5 the reader is presented with a clearer picture of the man Tuck is!

 

Message Edited by gosox on 01-05-2009 10:44 PM
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PHDuarte
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎07-30-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I guess I'm a prude or something, but the sex scene with Will bothered me too. I may have grown up during the promiscuous sixties, but that type of intimacy four days after meeting a person is beyond me, during their first "date". She was obviously uncomfortable, even if she was also turned on, but why didn't she say something. If she couldn't even decide if she liked or hated him. . . This is the '90s. I thought the women were supposed to be independent and strong.

 

I kept reading though. Lil so far has disappointed me. She argued with her father about how unnecessary marriage was, like she was quoting from some feminist class she took - which she probably was. Then when she and Tuck get married, she becomes almost a '50s doormat whose only identify seems to be related to Tuck and what Tuck wants. I understand the trauma of the husband being laid off/fired since I've experienced it more times than I care to think, but his reaction is that of a spoiled brat. 

 

So far, the women seem awfully immature for being around 25 or 26. A lot more nostalgia about college days than I remember feeling. I was eager to get out into the world and prove myself. I get the feeling they want to return to the womb of the campus. I hope they mature as the story grows. 

 

I like the writing style with the lengthy, run-on sentences sounds like someone would talk - full of energy.

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jpock
Posts: 24
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


KxBurns wrote:

The novel opens with Lil's unexpected wedding. What does this event represent and how does Lil's marriage impact her group of friends?

 

What do the opening chapters reveal about the main characters as individuals and as members of various groups - families, generations, social classes, etc.? What conflicts are hinted at or exposed? What moments did you find most striking?

 

What changes occur in the months that elapse between the wedding in Chapter One, which takes place in October 1998, and the party Lil and Tuck throw in Chapter Five, in June 1999?

 

(Please keep in mind that this thread is for discussion of the first five chapters ONLY. Do not refer to events that occur later in the book. Thanks!)


I am in agreement with many of you about chapter one - extremely tedious.  It was hard to get through.  The characters in the novel graduated from college at about the same time that I did, yet I don't remember ever being so self-centered and so pompous.  Frankly, I found the whole lot of them to be rather distasteful.  I wanted to yell "GROW UP!!" at them...  I also found myself a little bogged down by the infinite NYC detail - the boroughs, the streets, the trains, all enumerated.  I thought at first that perhaps the book was meant to be regional fiction, but I think the author was trying to give the reader a detailed (maybe too??)backdrop for the story.

 

The story did seem to pick up after Ch. 1, but I was shocked that Beth and Will became engaged.  How did that happen and wow, such strange circumstances??  I was tripping over detail in ch. 1 and now I'm left wondering if I skipped a chapter.  I'd love more information about the relationships between the characters.

 

Lil should definitely kick Tuck to the curb.  What a baby. 

 

I'm interested to see how the chapters continue (hopefully) to develop. 

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jpock
Posts: 24
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


thewanderingjew wrote:

When I first began to read this book I thought I must have read the date wrong and I went back to check the time frame in which it was placed. In my recollection, by the late 90's women felt much more freedom, were much more empowered, much more liberated and independent and far more sophisticated than Sadie, Beth, Lil or Emily. Even the men seemed like teenagers to me. I was surprised, frankly, at their shallowness and foolish behavior. They seemed more like frivolous girls who had been sheltered and over protected and were therefore irresponsble rather than mature women.

My kids and their friends, who were of that era, were so much more adult, grounded and level headed with a firm purpose and sense of direction, when they were that age. As a rule they did not lack substance and were not flighty. I felt as if the author reached into the bottom of the barrel to pick out the four weakest young women she could find for the book. I figured maybe one would be kind of a misfit, but why do all of them seem so dysfunctional and why do all of them come from homes they dislike and parents they don't respect?
All of the characters seem to be lacking direction and self confidence. I am hoping that as the book progresses, they change into more likeable adults who behave responsibly. I wouldn't want these four women, or the men they chose, to be indicative of the future generations.

I know the locale in which the book takes place very well. Brooklyn was up and coming, Queens was a geographically undesirable location and neither had the panache of Manhattan. Scarsdale residents in general have a stereotype of being rich snobs. However, the people I know were not those stereotypes at all. The young adults I knew who grew up and/or settled in these neighborhoods, were not like the characters in this book. They were more stable and self confident

I agree that the sex scene was a bit much but it sure pointed out how foolhardy these girls were with their haphazard and irresponsible behavior patterns. They seemed to make choices about men with less concern than one uses for picking a head of lettuce! Character played a very small role in their choices and image seemed more important, overall. I am afraid I didn't like them. I hope they develop more fully and I change my mind.

twj


 

Well said, twj. 
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GSB65
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-06-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I think starting with the wedding scene was a good choice.  It allowed the author to then give you flashbacks to detail why this is such a huge event in thier lives.  It did get a bit hard to follow trying to figure out who all of the characters were and how they were going to fit into the story.

 

I am having a hard time "liking" any of these characters.  This is my generation and I cannot find one character that I can relate to.  I get the feel that they all view themselves as above and better than others, though they do nothing to prove this.  They all seem to be very self-centered.  I'm still trying to understand their views on others.   College was their life and if you didn't go to Oberlin, well you're just not worthy.  Maybe I'm totally reading more into that then what is there, but I really felt they were snobs.

 

I was a bit shocked with the sex scene between Will and Beth, not that it was over the top, just that it didn't seem to fit it.  I'm not sure what it was supposed to show us about Beth's character, her willingness to try anything or her unability to stand up for herself??

 

Overall, I'm getting through the book.  It has kept my interest, though I'm having a hard time really caring what happens to any of them.

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onyx9
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎11-23-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I, like others had a difficult time with the first chapter.  I am not sure why, but the wedding to me was almost commercial, it seemed to lack any feeling, it was very descriptive but all I got out of that was a feeling that I wasn't sure if I would like any of these women.  I knew I had to continue because some of the characteristics of these characters did remind me of my self and my own friends (being of the same generation). 

 

Unlike most of you, I found the intimacy of Will and Beth almost realistic, for the time and her personality.  I didn't feel it as her being desparate or trying to catch up, I felt it was more of a time for her to face the fear she had always had, she had always wanted to be more free and open to new experiences and she felt he was safe becaue of the connection with Tuck and Lil.   I think that is when I decided I could read the rest of this book. 

 

The thing I didn't like is that the reader was left guessing how she went from smoking impatiently waiting for him to call her a week later to (practically) all of a sudden 'we are engaged'.  To me that is frustrating, I want to know if she finally screwed up the courage to call him or if he finally called her and all that. 

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KomodoDragon
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I found Chapter 1 very difficult to read and I had to put it down several times.  It was tought to get through.  chapter 2 really picks it up and I found teh sex scene with Beth to be very erotic.  Overall, I do not care for the way the book progresses with time and skips around like a movie.
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mathilda
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎11-23-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I had a tough time really getting into the book, but it improved after the second chapter. I was surprised at Lil's wedding, I was heartened by how her friends rallied around to support her, though few could have anticipated the sudden wedding.

I don't see any evolving of "individuality" as such in the first few chapters, I find the main characters all to be clinging to their old "Oberlin identity and personalities", as opposed to moving along and becoming emancipated women of the 90's.

 

I was surprised by the sex scene between Beth and Will, I would say very few educated women at the time, would have just "let it happen" that way. I was disappointed not to read anything about their relationship subsequently.

 

I found Sadie to be the most interesting character of the lot. I thought Lil was rather bland and uninspiring, and had become even more so after he wedding. Tuck clearly was a fake, a fluke, and by the end of chapter 5, I had the distinct impression that Lil was totally disiluusioned by him.

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LA-Rose
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-26-2008
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Initial Reaction

Although many seemed to have a hard time getting through the first chapter, I would have to disagree. Rather, I had a hard time getting through the second chapter, like most who did not enjoy the sex scene. First of all, I thought the wedding opening was interesting and relatable for anyone that has ever been to a Jewish wedding, as well as it being well described. I also liked the thorough description of the city (also interesting for those who are familiar with that area, and informative for those who are unfimiliar). The wedding obviously represents a turning point for the group as a whole, and Lil as an individual. It is a way to show a pivotal moment for both the group and the particular character. The importance of this opening is the reactions from each member of the group, which may reflect their past and define their future. As most have already mentioned, it seems that the impact is quite clear. The rest of the group seem to harbor a certain jealousy of Lil's marriage. She is the first to break the invisible barrier, and venture into this new territory of life. This is where the envy comes in perhaps, or rather the rest of the group acknowledged that they may not be brave enought to take the first step towards marriage (although they easily critiqued Lil). Overall, I believed the wedding opening to be quite brillant and the description seemed an added bonus, rather than an annoyance.

The opening chapters tend to focus more on Beth, Sadie, and Lil (as opposed to Dave, Tal, and Emily). These chapters tend to focus on their current compromises, while hinting at their individuality. Beth obviously has some problems with insecurity, (as most have mentioned) which is portrayed through the quite bothersome sex scene. I thought that was a bit too overly detailed and quite unneccesary. There may have been other ways to approach Beth's issues, without being so graphic. Nevertheless, others have seemed to enjoy this scene for its realistic quality, so perhaps my opinion is more old fashioned. Continuing on, the opening focused so much on Lil that I did not expect as much commentary for Beth and Sadie. Lil and Tuck are having issues in their relationship that (I must disagree with other posts) do not neccessarily scream divorce or separation yet (although the ending of chapter 5 hints at bigger issues for the marriage). Somehow, I suspect cheating on the part of Tuck, however they are newly married and if cheating is not the case, they should be able to work things out. Additionally, Sadies seems to be the most envied and desireable of the group, as seen throught the eyes of Beth and Tal. However, her personality does not seem clear yet. It seems as if we know her from Beth's perspective, as well as Will's intial thoughts. Each character seems to enjoy the others' families more than their own, and this puzzles me. Their families seem to hang in the background, being commented upon for their adaptation to modern culture (or in some cases, lack thereof). I found the ending of chapter five most striking with the hint that Tuck was arguing privately with Caitlin Green-Gold, possibly suggesting further issues between Lil and Tuck. Most have commented that these girls seem immature, and I think that this holds some purpose for the plotline (it is a coming of age novel). Rakoff's statment on page 76 is quite interesting when interpreting this coming of age novel; "That's the big difference, she thought, between novels- or movies- and life. In real life, people don't actually change." We will see how true that statement remains, as the novel progresses.

The changes that take place as the chapters continue seem to foreshadow events, such as Tuck and Lil's marital issues. Then, there is Beth's suprise engagement to Will. Additionally, Sadie and Tal's relationship is growing, while Tal is on his way to stardom and L.A., posing many questions for their future. All these characters seem to have piviotal events either taking place or forthcoming, within this time frame. These events are both personal and career oriented (as with Tuck and Sadie with the book contract, David's band, Tal's acting career, etc.). It leaves much to be pondered and further explained. Overall, I am pleased with Rakoff's writing style, it seems unique with all the asides and detail. I am looking forward to finding out more about these young ladies on their way through adulthood.

"If you are forgotten, it is as if you have never lived. So, you must make yourself remembered: write a legacy." -L.A. Rose
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Rabid_Reader
Posts: 57
Registered: ‎11-11-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I agree that the wedding was a good way to start the book and introduce the characters. Having said that I had a hard time getting through the beginning of the book. Once I got through that rough area I was very pleased to see that the first chapter or so was a poor representation for the rest of the book.

 

I was also disappointed in Lil and how quickly her views of marriage changed. She seemed like an unreliable character to me as she started out with such a strong disregard to marriage only to completly flip flop her views upon meeting Tuck.

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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Initial Reaction


LA-Rose wrote:

Somehow, I suspect cheating on the part of Tuck, however they are newly married and if cheating is not the case, they should be able to work things out.

 

... I found the ending of chapter five most striking with the hint that Tuck was arguing privately with Caitlin Green-Gold, possibly suggesting further issues between Lil and Tuck.


Arguing and more maybe?  I am not sure who was in the room with Caitlin.

 

"Slowly the faces swam into focus:  a woman with wide, sleep-starved eyes and long dark hair.  Caitlin Green and her awful husband.  ... The hesitant glow of the candles suited Caitlin's husband.  He looked almost handsome, his hair mussed and falling over his face, the bones and hollows of his cheeks exaggerated by shadows, the sweatshirt no longer hiding his chest, which appeared broader without the heavy folds of cloth covering it."  (pg. 110-1)

 

"Out of it came a thin, dark-haired girl --- Caitlin Green --- and a moment later, a dark-haired man.  The man's hair was shot through with gray.  Tuck Hayes.  No, Sadie corrected herself, Tuck Roth-Hayes."  (pg. 113)

 

So what does everyone think?  Who was in the room with Catilin?

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Initial Reaction


Fozzie wrote:

LA-Rose wrote:

Somehow, I suspect cheating on the part of Tuck, however they are newly married and if cheating is not the case, they should be able to work things out.

 

... I found the ending of chapter five most striking with the hint that Tuck was arguing privately with Caitlin Green-Gold, possibly suggesting further issues between Lil and Tuck.


Arguing and more maybe?  I am not sure who was in the room with Caitlin.

 

"Slowly the faces swam into focus:  a woman with wide, sleep-starved eyes and long dark hair.  Caitlin Green and her awful husband.  ... The hesitant glow of the candles suited Caitlin's husband.  He looked almost handsome, his hair mussed and falling over his face, the bones and hollows of his cheeks exaggerated by shadows, the sweatshirt no longer hiding his chest, which appeared broader without the heavy folds of cloth covering it."  (pg. 110-1)

 

"Out of it came a thin, dark-haired girl --- Caitlin Green --- and a moment later, a dark-haired man.  The man's hair was shot through with gray.  Tuck Hayes.  No, Sadie corrected herself, Tuck Roth-Hayes."  (pg. 113)

 

So what does everyone think?  Who was in the room with Catilin?


Definitely Tuck. In the bedroom candlelight, Sadie had assumed it was Caitlin's husband, Rob, and had been surprised that he looked better than she'd remembered ... and then been surprised by how fast he'd gotten from the bedroom back out into the middle of the living room, before she did. That Tuck and Caitlin had hidden from Sadie, "frozen .... like trapped animals" hints at more than arguing. I'm not sure if Tuck just didn't have on the sweatshirt that Sadie expected (thinking it was Rob), or whether he had no shirt on at all.

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Shadowwolf36
Posts: 76
Registered: ‎09-16-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

The sex scene didn't bother me as much as it did others. It was perhaps a bit too descriptive but I do believe it gave us much insight in Beth as perhaps a more malleable character -- not necessarily a good thing -- but.......Sex in the nineties for women was more empowering I think -- doesn't mean that smart women were not promiscuous. In fact maybe more so since they felt they held more power. Sex was not only for procreation anymore. I know this movement started much earlier on but do find that even women today feel that they can be more powerful in that arena. I feel that Beth allowing Will to do what she allowed him in the beginning was because she was feeling left behind and lost and needed something and perhaps a bit curious -- she'd been in the boonies as far as we know and not in the city......I don't think she knew exactly what she was thinking and I think I would have made a different decision.  She did at some point get the upper hand. She had the opportunity to leave and call it a night but she chose to continue on and then have a relationship with him despite his claim that he doesn't do obligations. She obviously saw something there that none have seen yet....maybe we will see more later.
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bitsy55
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎11-20-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

[ Edited ]

I agree with so many of you about the first chapter.  But it did get somewhat better and I did finish the book.  But through most of the book I found myself feeling annoyed.  Mainly with some of the characters.  I did like Beth.  Even though I didn't really relate or understand the sex scene. I didn't feel like it really fit her character.  I tried to get into all the detals of New York and the trains etc....  But it was a little tedious to me.

 

 

Message Edited by bitsy55 on 01-06-2009 08:28 AM
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detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


[Beth had] been in the boonies as far as we know and not in the city

The book's references to Milwaukee as undeveloped country was typical New York, and I suppose characterizing, but it also kept pulling me out of the story. Milwaukee has a pop of 1.5 million, and is an hour away from Chicagoland's population of 9 million. Someone who went to school in tiny Oberlin, Ohio would think Milwaukee was the boonies?

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detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I liked the wedding as a venue for introducing the many characters, the setting, the time period. Like others, though, I had to persevere to get through the chapter and was happy to feel more engaged in the next chapters.

 

I also liked that we see, right away, that this group of supposedly close, long-time friends keeps secrets from each other: dislikes, jealousies, rivalries. That made it believable that Lil could change her views on marriage, and Beth's relationship with Will could evolve, in ways that surprised their friends. I rather liked how the author introduced Beth's engagement ... it made the reader feel as blind-sided as Beth's friends must have felt.

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