Book Review by Amy LaVertu, Information Services Librarian
What does it mean to have talent?
Does having talent really matter if it doesn’t get recognized?
Is talent a ticket for happiness, success and a life worth living?
These questions are at the heart of Meg Wolitzer’s captivating new novel, The Interestings. Wolitzer’s novel centers on the lives and loves of a group of six friends who meet as teenagers at a summer camp for the arts in the mid-1970’s. The group, which calls themselves “the Interestings,” believes that their talents will protect them from a fate worse than death… an ordinary life. However, talent proves to be a mixed bag as the group enters the adult world and comes to understand that talent is no guarantee for success, happiness, or a meaningful life. When one member of the group member achieves wild success as an animator (think Matt Groening of “The Simpsons” fame), the other members must face what their talent, or lack therefore, has brought them in life.
Set largely in New York City, The Interestings spans four decades. Reminiscent of the Up series of documentaries which tracks a group of school children into adulthood, the reader gets to experience the characters’ development from insecure teenagers who see only limitless options ahead of them to jaded middle-aged adults. Wolitzer seamlessly interweaves events of the day (e.g., Nixon’s resignation, the AIDS crisis, the Central Park jogger attack, 9/11) to give readers the broader context of her characters’ lives. While the novel clocks in just shy of 500 pages, The Interestings is a surprisingly brisk read. Reading The Interestings evokes the same feeling one gets when one catches up with long lost friends; the hours fly by and yet there is much more to say.
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