Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg

20 01 2010

I don’t generally have bad luck – I mean, shit happens but I feel like I get a good balance between crap and cupcakes.  Usually.  But I don’t know which voodoo witch I pissed off because nothing has gone my way recently.  The pinnacle of all of this was the 4 hours I spent on the DC Metro Sunday.  And of course I didn’t have a fun, trashy absorbing vampire book to entertain me.  Nope, I had a collection of John Cheever’s letters.  Which, don’t get me wrong, are amazing and I’m absolutely loving reading it, and I so wish people actually corresponded still, but, when you’re boarding a train for the fourth time in the same day, and you’re wearing the same clothes you were wearing 24 hours before, and your hair is grody with product, and you’ve had to walk around DC in the cold rain while wearing your favorite purple SUEDE boots, you don’t really want to read a letter written in the 1930s by a man having a lot of trouble with his first novel.  Not. What. You. Want.

Which brings me to the book I finished reading today – because it was also not what I wanted.  And while my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday just sucked all over the place, Wickett’s Remedy had so much potential that it was all the more disappointing.  It’s the story of a girl from the South Side of Boston in the early part of the last century and her life as a Southie girl trying to make it through working across the bridge, marrying “above her station,” and into the great influenza epidemic in 1918.  And, honestly, if it was just that story, it would have been a decent book, nothing outstanding, but an interesting story told well.

Instead, Myla Goldberg went all gimmicky and just really killed the book for me.  As you’re reading along about Liddie’s life, there are these notes in the margins.  And they’re little comments about the current action, told by a chorus of the dead.  Let’s say we’re learning about Liddie’s job at a fancy department store, and a statement is made about a co-worker – in the margin there would be a little note – from the co-worker’s ghost – contradicting that statement.  Instead of enhancing the story, it just kept throwing me out and distracting me.  On top of this, at the end of each chapter we these little vignettes – a newsletter, a newspaper article, a letter, a bit of conversation – all without any real context.  Eventually these little end of chapter snippets came together to form a story of their own, but it was so unnecessary.  Again it just disrupted Liddie’s story, which was really quite lovely and bittersweet.  So, I can’t recommend this book, but I can recommend Bee Season by Myla Goldberg – which I loved and is the reason I grabbed this book.  Hopefully I’ll finish something wonderful soon, and in the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my curse will be broken and I’ll go back to leading a normal uneventful life.

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