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Book of the Week: Love and Shame and Love
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, just in time for Thanksgiving, the subtle, insightful novel:
Love And Shame And Love
by Peter Orner
The multi-generational novel is an American classic (think: Jeffery Eugenides's Middlesex or Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections), and yet, Peter Orner's 439-page ode to one Jewish family in Chicago makes the idea his own. The central story follows the life of dreamy, disconnected Alex Popper, most crucially during his post college affair with practical minded Kit. Along the way, however, we move back in time, exploring the loves and lives of his parents and grandparents, as well as political and social climates of every decade from World War II to present day (the cameo of Walter Mondale eating mini-pizza's in Popper's childhood living room is worth the read alone). Each couple emblemizes the topical relationship of their day—the grandparents who didn't love each other but stayed together, the parents who split in the 1970s, and the young divorce-scarred Popper who doesn't marry but lives with Kit—but with such quirky specificity, their pain is your pain. It's the details, in fact, where Orner seduces—that quiet parade of absolutely wacky and wonderful stuff that's so odd, it must be real even if it's fiction. Poor young, plump Popper is forced to take recorder (not violin) lessons and visit a therapist who stuffs him with potato chips every time he tries to talk about his problems. He waxes poetic about the disinfectant polices at the local pool and Mr. Carl who hands out towels in the high school locker room, shouting out updates about Luke and Laura on General Hospital. At times, the minutiae of the grandparents and parents—old love letters, gangster stories—can make the book drag, but hang in there. Love and Shame and Love is a slow burn with a firecracker at the end—the best kind of firecracker, where you, not the characters, gasp in realization about what we really inherit from the past.
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