Book Review: ABC: a Novel

abcThey say the third time’s the charm.  In the case of this book, I was desperately hoping that “they” were right.

For one thing, this was the third summer I’d checked this book out.  That must mean I was compelled to read it, right?  Then I wouldn’t have to check it out again next summer.

For another thing, this was the third time I’d checked out a book on my “unfinished business” list – books that I’d checked out but never read – only to discover that yes, in fact, I *have* read it.  Or at least, I’d read the first 62 pages.  After that, nothing looked familiar.

And I discovered something.  Two things, actually.

The first thing I discovered was that after the first 62 pages, nothing looked familiar because I either stopped reading or I stopped caring.  Or maybe a little of both. That’s certainly what happened this time.

You see, Gerard and Peggy have one son, Harry.  They live somewhere in the northeast near Boston, and they spend their summers on a lake where Peggy’s family has a cabin.  Nearby, there is a decrepit, abandoned house known by the locals as “the wreck.”  It’s a great place for the locals to engage in all kinds of illegal and immoral behavior when no one else is around, but during the summer, it’s a little boy’s wonderland.  A spooky old house to explore in?  You bet!  So Harry and his mom and dad are on an expedition to the wreck when the unthinkable happens: in the words of one reviewer “there is a crack as a floorboard, as Gerard’s knee, as his life and consciousness snap.”  Harry falls to the concrete basement floor beneath and dies instantly.  Inexplicably, in his grief, Gerard becomes obsessed with the alphabet.  Because he cannot absorb the magnitude of his own loss, because he cannot grasp the reality of his world shattering into such tragic shards, Gerard disappears into this quest for understanding: why are the letters of the alphabet arranged as they are?  And yes, the rest of the book is as uninteresting and perplexing as it sounds.  Gerard is so absorbed by his pursuit that he fails to notice his wife’s abandonment.  And shortly thereafter, mine.  I gave him a bit more leeway than Peggy, but by the time I had reached 110 pages, I, too was done.  Tired of being ignored.  Tired of this meaningless pursuit and the absolute refusal to face his grief head-on.

Which led me to my second discovery: “they” were right.  The third time was the charm.  I will *not* be checking this book out again next summer.  Or any summer hereafter, for that matter.