I was at my local library last week browsing the new arrival books and was excited to see Cathleen Schine’s “The Three Weissmanns of Westport.” Schine is one of many authors whose books I’ve read for years and I am usually first in line to buy her newest one upon its release. I hadn’t yet gotten this and was praising my lucky stars that I was able to get it free from the library.
After checking the book out, I went home and started reading it right away, eager to jump into the lazy-day world of the oceanside community and the intricate characters that Schine delivers (previous novels include “The Love Letter” made into a great film starring Ellen DeGeneres). I had my glass of wine, two pugs curled up at my feet and a light breeze was tinkling the wind chimes on our back porch. I started reading…..and wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. I thought to myself that maybe I was just tired and I would be able to get into the book more the next day. Saturday came and I kept reading….and still I wasn’t being “grabbed” by the book, the way you always want to be grabbed by a good book. You know, getting so entranced that all you do is read and get deeper into the lives of these characters who are your new friends, watching as their lives unfold and you feel like you can anticipate what they’ll do next, the way you can with your best friend. Sadly, not in this book.
Not only was the storyline lax, and utterly unbelievable with the way the characters were written, I found that I didn’t like ANY of the characters of the book. There is not a clear protaganist in the book and ALL of the major characters irritated the fuck out of me! All I wanted to do was grab them by their shirts, shake them and yell “get over yourself, life happens, you’ll live.”
Even after all of this, I was still torn between finishing the book or just tossing it aside. I usually do not have a problem with stopping a book when I do not like it, but I felt like I had already invested quite a bit of time and I should see the book through. There was also the tiny voice in the back of my head that reminded me that I’d read Schine before, that she hadn’t led me astray in the past and that I should finish the book and see her through….perhaps the book would be redeemed. No such luck. I finished reading the book late at night and was so irritated with (a) the entire book, and (b) the fact that I let myself keep reading the book until the end, that I wanted to immediately get up and blog about what a disappointment the book was, to share with others the horror that I had just endured by reading the book and warn them off. (What can I say, I have been known to have a flair for the dramatic!) Alas, I was far too lazy to get out of bed to do that when it was already past midnight and I had to work the next day.
After taking the time to finish reading the book, and being utterly disappointed with the entire experience, I got to thinking about why I was so bothered by this particular lackluster reading experience. I’ve certainly read other books and not enjoyed them, it’s not a new experience. I think I’ve been so bothered by this book because of my past, positive experiences with the author. She has never led me astray, I’ve always enjoyed what she has written and I was all settled in, looking forward to what I knew, just knew, would be a good book. And it was not. And that, more than anything, was what really saddened me. For now I question if I can even give Schine another try as I fear any further disappointments will color her reputation in my mind…..I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, should you choose to read “The Three Weissmanns of Westport,” for God’s sake, proceed with extreme caution.