Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Almost Heaven

Almost Heaven by Marianne Wiggins.
Simon & Schuster (1999), Paperback, 224 pages

Last week I went to the library to borrow some books, armed with an NPR list, hoping to score some good stuff. But no. My library is way too ancient to have already invested in newly popular books. Not one of the books on my list was there. So I decided I would borrow some 4-5 books, just walking past shelves and picking up stuff that caught my fancy.

What catches my eyes is usually bright colors - lime greens, magentas, oranges. But lime green and magenta on a white background - dead giveaway - chick lit. Especially if there's a title in a scrolly font. It was the lack of a scrolly font that made me pick up Marianne Wiggins' Almost Heaven, even though the magenta and lime green were there, resting on a white sea.

I remembered Marianne Wiggins from her marriage to Salman Rushdie days - when he had that fatwa hanging on his head, and they were living in hiding, darting out of alleys and bus stops in the imagination I had. That didn't last - neither the fatwa nor the marriage. The book itself was about a woman who had witnessed her husband and children killed before her eyes in a tornado, and had suffered from a memory loss, as a result. A jaded news reporter who had witnessed the massacre in Srebenica, her brother's protege and close friend, helps her find her memory and finds his appreciation of his life. Even though I liked Wiggins' writing, I couldn't stomach the way I could foresee the dots.

Jaded reporter - finds out about his friend's sister having the accident - decides to visit - friend's sister is a stunner, even if she's prone to blank stares every time something from her recent past is brought up. You can see where it's going, right? Right into steamy sex in a trailer. Even if Wiggins explored nature and memory and loss, her plot points are way too Hollywoodish. I don't understand myself either. I love it when I can foresee the story line when I'm watching a film. Then why not a book? I don't know.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the dedication page. She had written something to the effect of "In memory of [some date], 1995". It just made me curious to know what that day was. Was it the day Rushdie's fatwa was lifted? Or when she got a divorce from him? Or her son was born? Who knows? Doesn't bode well to me that that is the most intriguing thing about the book.

(Review crossposted on LibraryThing)

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