Saturday, February 21, 2015

TBR Challenge 2015: Better Late Than Never

The Book: Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart

The Particulars: General Fiction, MIRA, 2011, Out of Print, Available Digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Megan Hart = Duh, of course Wendy is going to read it eventually.  I love Hart's books.

The Review:  This was Hart's first foray into "general fiction" and since she's an autobuy that's why it's been languishing in my TBR for ages.  However Rosie read this shortly after it released (I think?) and keeps asking me if I've ever read it every time we snatch the opportunity to meet for lunch.  So even though she has abandoned blogging because she doesn't love me (wah!), this month's challenge seemed like a good opportunity to dust it off.

Ever read a book, appreciate it, and yet know you are absolutely not the target audience for it?  Yeah, that.  I can appreciate many things about this book and would recommend it in a hot minute to those of you who have book clubs that don't suck.  But on a "personal level?"  Meh.

How many times did you wish for someone or something to take you away?  How many times did you imagine how nice it would be to get sick, really sick, so you could be hospitalized and have someone else take care of you for change?

Gilly Solomon is having one of those days.  She's running errands with her two small children who refuse to listen, behave, or you know - just shut up for 3 seconds - and she's made the mistake of trying to squeeze in "one last thing" - a trip to the ATM.  She's one step away from having a mental breakdown and getting sent off to Rancho Relaxo (you're welcome Simpsons fans).  As she gets back into her car, a man hops in the passenger seat, pulls a knife on her, and orders her to drive.  The fly in the ointment?  He didn't see that she had kids.  Gilly manages to get the kids to safety, but doesn't rescue herself (and she has opportunity).  Instead she keeps driving with her kidnapper, Todd.

They eventually make their way to his dead uncle's hunting cabin when a winter of epic proportions socks them in, out in the middle of nowhere, for a couple of months.  In close quarters.  Together.  As far as kidnappers go Todd is a decent sort (you know, except for the whole carjacking kidnapping "thing") so readers don't need to worry about Gilly getting raped, beaten etc.  The dilemma is, of course, that Todd's plan has gone all cockeyed and Gilly creates a bunch of complications for him.

Publisher's Weekly called this, "....a dark hostage story that, due to its unrelenting grimness, risks turning readers off."  Is this grim?  In my opinion, no more so than some of Hart's erotica.  She's always specialized in complicated characters who think and say the things we all do - it's just the rest of us have a hard time admitting them to ourselves.  Is that dark?  Maybe.  I'm not always convinced that it is - let's call it "challenging" or "thought-provoking" instead.

Where I think this book stumbled for me is that I didn't get the same "depth" out of the characters here that I have in other Hart stories.  I also cannot quite put my finger on why that is.  Is it because I can't "relate" to Gilly?  I don't think so - because even though I'm not a mother, I "get" where she is coming from.  I understand her, empathize with her a bit even.  Which is why I think this would be a great book club read.  Imagine all the great conversations you could have about societal expectations on women, the whole Earth Mother BS women get crammed down our throats, how having children is your #1 Mission In Life OMG You Must Make Babies!!!!  I just....wasn't that enthralled with her.

I also was fairly lukewarm on Todd, although he's a touch more interesting.  Yes, he's pretty much a world class screw up, but some of his back-story is interesting.  Although there's a twist at the end that didn't come out of left field so much as come from the stadium parking lot.  Honestly, why Hart felt the need to pile on I don't know.  The tragic back-story was plenty tragic enough already.

I think what would have helped this book for me was more of Gilly's back-story.  We get glimpses, but just that - glimpses.  The stuff about her mother was great, but more of her father and husband would have been welcome.  As it was I felt like I was skating above the surface and never really broke through the ice like I've done with other Hart books.  It just didn't quite get me all the way there.

So where does that leave us?  I hate rating any Hart book as "average," because her average is better than most writers' "good" - but yeah, average.  I didn't love this, but I could totally see it working for other readers and this is just the sort of book I'll book talk the hell out of, even if I don't want to gush all over it and have babies with it.  Not my monkey, not my circus, but I can still appreciate it on a certain level.

Final Grade = C+