December 3rd, 2013
The Short Take:
This book has more than a half dozen main characters, all of who are interesting in both their circumstances and their responses to those circumstances. I enjoyed them so much it was ultimately frustrating not to get to understand them better. But then, isn’t that the way things go with us humans?
There’s really not much more to say about this book. It attempts to explore the human condition by bringing in quite a diverse cast of characters; from a wealthy widow to a teen who witnessed a shooting in her school to a carpenter damaged in body and spirit, plus several others. There are various interactions and connections, but none of them are particularly satisfying.
At first, the book feels the same way — unsatisfying. Then you realize that is probably the point the author is trying to make. The human instinct to connect, yet our ultimate aloneness within ourselves, are at odds with each other and our happiness.
However, despite that, each of us has the power to influence, and even dramatically change, those around us — just like several characters do in this novel, sometimes with no intention of doing so.
A Little Plot:
After witnessing a shooting that killed her stepsister, teenage Linnea becomes unmanageable and is sent to live with her unambitious father across the country. She meets a hard-striving young man who is trying to support his ailing dad, which means letting go of college dreams.
Then there’s the nurse, who is enlisted by a wealthy widow to start a foundation that will encourage people to be better, kinder to each other. Plus sundry others.
For more about Jean Thompson and her work, click here. By the way, it turns out “The Humanity Project” really exists. It has no connection with this book that I can tell, but sounds interesting, with a similar goal as the fictional foundation. If you want to know about that, click here.