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Title: The Spectacular
Author: Zoe Whittall
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Page Count: 351
My rating: 3 stars
About the book:
Three generations of women strive for real freedom in this startling, provocative novel exploring sexuality, gender, and maternal ambivalence, from the acclaimed author of The Best Kind of People.
It’s 1997 and Missy is a cellist in an indie rock band on tour across America. At twentytwo years old, she gets on stage every night and plays the song about her absent mother that made the band famous. As the only girl in the band, she’s determined to party just as hard as everyone else, loving and leaving a guy in every town. But then she meets a tomboy drummer who is hard to forget, and a forgotten flap of cocaine strands her at the border.
Fortysomething Carola is just surfacing from a sex scandal at the yoga center where she has been living when she sees her daughter, Missy, for the first time in ten years—on the cover of a music magazine.
Ruth is eighty-three and planning her return to the Turkish seaside village where she spent her childhood. But when her granddaughter, Missy, winds up crashing at her house, she decides it’s time that the strong and stubborn women in her family find a way to understand one another again.
In this sharply observed novel, Zoe Whittall captures three very different women who each struggle to build an authentic life. Definitions of family, romance, gender, and love will radically change as they seek out lives that are nothing less than spectacular.
The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall is a women’s fiction novel featuring three generations of women. The story in The Spectacular is one that is told by changing the point of view between the characters and by changing timelines going back to the past and also a jump further into the future from the current time.
The story begins in 1997 with twenty two year old Missy. Missy grew up in a commune never having known her mother and is now in an indie rock band traveling the world. Missy wants nothing to do with motherhood and only wants to live freely like her male bandmates.
Carola is Missy’s mother and hasn’t seen her daughter in years since she left her at the commune. Now in her forties Carola sees her daughter on the cover of a magazine. Eighty three year old Ruth is Carola’s mother and Missy’s grandmother and when Missy pops into her life she thinks it’s time for the family to begin to understand one another.
I have to say I picked up The Spectacular because I read The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall and really enjoyed it. After reading The Spectacular I felt that it wasn’t nearly as engaging for me though. The story is kind of all over the place in terms of time and the first half seemed a bit more smooth than the second. It was interesting seeing how different the characters were but the ending left a little to be desired for me so overall I just felt this was only an OK read.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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About the author:
Zoe Whittall’s latest novel, The Spectacular, is forthcoming in September of 2021. She is the author of three previous works of literary fiction, including the Giller-shortlisted The Best Kind of People, Lamda-winning Holding Still for as Long as Possible, and debut Bottle Rocket Hearts. She has published three collections of poetry, The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life, Precordial Thump, and The Emily Valentine Poems. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Cosmonauts Ave, The Believer, The Cut, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and more. She is also a Canadian Screen Award-winning TV and film writer, with credits on The Baroness Von Sketch Show, Schitt’s Creek, Degrassi and others.