Title: The Red Book
Author: Deborah Copaken Kogan
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: It had simply never occurred to Addison that the Cambridge Police Department not only kept two-decade-old records of unpaid parking tickets, but that they could also use the existence of her overdue fines, on the eve of her twentieth college reunion, to arrest her in front of Gunner and the kids.
Clover, Addison, Mia, and Jane were roommates at Harvard until their graduation in 1989. Clover, homeschooled on a commune by mixed-race parents, felt woefully out of place. Addison yearned to shed the burden of her Mayflower heritage. Mia mined the depths of her suburban ennui to enact brilliant performances on the Harvard stage. Jane, an adopted Vietnamese war orphan, made sense of her fractured world through words.
Twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker with Lehman, is out of a job and struggling to reproduce before her fertility window slams shut. Addison’s marriage to a writer’s-blocked novelist is as stale as her so-called career as a painter. Hollywood shut its gold-plated gates to Mia, who now stays home with her four children, renovating and acquiring faster than her director husband can pay the bills. Jane, the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper whose foreign bureaus are now shuttered, is caught in a vortex of loss.
Like all Harvard grads, they’ve kept abreast of one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, containing brief autobiographical essays by fellow alumni. But there’s the story we tell the world, and then there’s the real story, as these former classmates will learn during their twentieth reunion weekend, when they arrive with their families, their histories, their dashed dreams, and their secret yearnings to a relationship-changing, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.
I really didn’t like this book, and to be completely honest, if it wasn’t a review copy, I wouldn’t have finished it. Let me tell you why:
Sex. I’m not a total prude. I do read books with sex scenes as long as they’re not every single page. If they’re too graphic, I skim until the story starts again. My philosophy when it comes to love scenes is less is more. This author and I obviously do not share this philosophy. Not only was their sex between the characters, but the characters’ teenage sons spend half the book watching internet porn videos on their iPods, and the author couldn’t just say “….while the boys were drooling over internet porn.” No, she tells the reader, in graphic detail, exactly what they are drooling over. And because it’s not in the context of a sex scene, it sort of just sneaks up on you before you expect it, leaving you feeling like you need a shower. Ew.
Unlikable characters. I found two out of the four main characters completely despicable. While I didn’t hate the other two, I didn’t like them, either. There was one – one – character out of the whole book that I actually liked, and (spoiler alert) he met an unfortunate end.
Now, you may be wondering why this book even rated two stars, if I disliked it so strongly. Simply put, Deborah Kogan can write. I didn’t care for what she wrote, but the writing was not subpar. That’s the best I can say about this book.