Saturday, July 28, 2012

"The Man of My Dreams," by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld's first novel, "Prep," was a fascinating look at the East Coast boarding school set. Her "American Wife" was a fictionalized version of the life of a Laura Bush type character. I enjoyed both. I have just listened on CD to her novel, "The Man of My Dreams" (Books on Tape, 2006). As in "Prep," Sittenfeld's main character here is a distinctive, somewhat eccentric, somewhat lonely "outsider" type. We meet Hannah when she is 14, and reeling from the recent separation of her mother from her abusive father. We follow her life up to her late 20s. She is smart and observant, blunt and somewhat socially inept, and continues to be a bit of an outsider. She is the kind of person who is almost always insecure, but who is capable of feeling both superior and inferior at almost the same time. She would love to be loved, but on one level doesn't feel she deserves true love and, perhaps consequently, keeps choosing (or being chosen by) the wrong men, and seems not to quite know what to do about that. All of this is painfully and realistically portrayed in this novel. The author is brave enough to make Hannah a bit unlikable at times, yet we readers understand and sympathize with her, and ultimately cannot help liking her. This novel felt very immediate, very real to me. It wasn't always comfortable to listen to, but ultimately I admired and enjoyed it.

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