Book 60 – The Fainting Room

The summary for this book would have you believe that that it’s a mystery.  The beautiful cover art would have you believe it’s sexy.  The adult characters would have you believe that their actions make sense.  I would have you believe that you shouldn’t believe any of that.

The story centers around an odd married couple.  Evelyn, who was a former circus performer on her second marriage, and Ray, a successful architect for a Boston firm who isn’t feeling challenged by his work.  The opening chapter lets you into the marital strife by showing that Evelyn is feeling put out by Ray’s successful friends, that she’s afraid that at any moment she is going to be found out as a former circus performer.  Evelyn’s character creates conflict where there is nothing, this is her character trait.  Ray tries to help her, he doesn’t understand why she puts the pressure on herself.  Ray appears like the sympathetic character in the relationship, don’t worry, that goes away.  Evelyn leaves the house at the end of the night in a rage and throws a rock through the window of her house, she finds out later that she almost killed her husband.  It would be unfair to say that the text strongly hints that she killed her first husband, it all but says it.  The audience now knows the mystery that is supposed to be unravelled.  Without spoiling anything, the big reveal requires no research, it basically consists of Evelyn going “How did you know I did that? let met tell you exactly what happens.”

While this is going on, we are introduced to Ingrid, a sixteen year old doomsday obsessed pseudo-punk rocker who is suspended from her boarding school, but refusing to go live with her father’s girlfriend in California, because teens are fucking difficult.

For awhile there, I thought the book had a lot of promise.  The prose is first rate, the descriptions vivid.  Sure, Ingrid’s secret had been telegraphed, but that didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a twist to it, and that we could find out something about the straight laced Ray, something from his past that might explain what drew him to Evelyn.  We can’t believe that the reason for these two being together is no more than, just because Evelyn is hot and new, while Ray is rich, but no, that’s what it amounts to.  That’s not fair.  You realize that, for Evelyn, Ray is what she needed, someone to care for her.  For Ray, well, the earlier description applies to Ray.

The prose is excellent, the character of Ingrid is wonderful, but that only carries the book so far.  The characters jump back and forth in their relationships constantly.  The adults refuse to act like adults, once Ray falls in love with Ingrid, which I was really hoping wouldn’t happen, and Evelyn doesn’t recognize that Ingrid is in love with her, which I was okay with happening.

Nobody in the book is what they appear to be .  Ray turns into a hon dog.  Evelyn is an emotional wreck, who randomly becomes strong when it is convenient to the story, and then immediately folds up again.  The only person who should be allowed to behave so mercurial, and still be believable, is Ingrid, and she is believable, because she is a child.  The sections involving Ingrid are where the prose really starts to shine, her retreats into her Detective Slade character are used well, showing her disconnect from reality.  Unsurprising then that the character is used more and more as Ingrid gets passed around from her own feelings for Evelyn, and Rays feelings for her.

Except that the story ends with a “Everything’s going to be alright, we didn’t damage this minor too bad” wrap up which lets everybody, except Ray, going to a bright and possibly better tomorrow.

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