Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Review: Falling Under

Summary: After growing up as the only child of bitterly divorced parents, Mara Foster has finally gained independence and is embarking on a promising career as an artist. But despite her success, she is fragile. Burdened by a host of fears and anxieties, Mara finds it difficult even to leave her house on most days. When Mara meets Hugo, the walls she has built around herself begin to crumble, and as she struggles to find a breakthrough both in her art and in life, she must come to terms with her own dark secrets in order to get a second chance at happiness.

Written in spare, crisp prose and marked by wry humor, Falling Under is a gripping contemporary urban tale of human weakness, friendship and hard-earned redemption. This emotionally resonant story of unexpected love marks the debut of a striking new voice in fiction. -- Plume Books

FALLING UNDER by Danielle Younge-Ullman is definitely a unique book (and by unique, I mean very special!) I can't say that I've read anything quite like it recently, but I can say that it was a novel that deeply affected me. The book was pretty dark and often times depressing because of its subject matter; however, the magic of the story was that the author still managed to infuse many moments of humor into this book.

I don't even know where to begin with the character of Mara. I've had a very normal, uneventful life (I mean that in a good way), so I found her to be more than a little messed up. However, even though I took issue with many of her actions, I found myself really liking her (and definitely rooting for her to find love.) In so many ways, Mara was just a victim of her environment -- it began when she was just a small child with her parents' divorce and it just went downhill from there. She became involved in many dysfunctional relationships, and it was just pitiful how much she wanted to be loved and accepted. I felt so much compassion for her and I so wanted her to find her way. I guess you could say that FALLING UNDER is kind of a "coming of age" story (although Mara might be a little older than your typical "coming of age" protagonists.)

I thought the supporting characters in Mara' life were very interesting. I really liked the side story of Mara's best friend Bernadette and her relationship woes! In addition, I thought Mara's love interests, Erik and Hugo, and her interactions with each of them were fascinating (although for different reasons.) The character of Sal, Mara's art dealer and financial supporter, and her parents also provided me with some entertainment and quite a few laughs. The mixed-up, diverse cast of characters in this novel are sure to stick with me for quite awhile!

One little warning: Ms. Younge-Ullman's prose is very bold. I think it's an extremely effective way to tell this story, and it certainly worked for me; however, some readers might find parts of the story to be quite graphic (especially the sex scenes.) In each chapter, the book goes back and forth between present day and Mara's past. This method of telling Mara's story allows the reader to gather additional pieces of the puzzle of Mara's life -- I thought it was brilliant! Ms. Younge-Ullman's writing style just seemed to fit so well with Mara's personality.

I am extremely impressed that this is Ms. Younge-Ullman's first novel. I read that she has had a love of books since her childhood, and it's evident that she has a great talent for writing. I thought she did an amazing job with the characters, and the book definitely held my interest throughout. Despite having a difficult subject matter, the book really flowed and was very easy to read. I loved how she incorporated some twists and turns in the last few chapters of the book -- they made the entire story come together. And the ending....it was just perfect!

Ms. Younge-Ullman is a current member of The Debutante Ball, a group blog of debut women writers. I'm a huge fan of this grog and I follow it everyday -- everyone should check it out. So far, the books that I've read by this year's Debs (this is my 4th) have been incredible -- they are very diverse, yet one is better than the next. In addition to her essays on The Debutante Ball, Ms. Younge-Ullman also writes on her own blog.

Book clubs everywhere should read FALLING UNDER. There are so many topics for discussion including: depression, alcoholism, the effects of divorce on children, relationships, friendships, parent/child relationships, etc. There is a terrific reading guide to help keep your conversation on track (which you might find really helpful since this book is likely to cause a lot of strong opinions.) Ms. Younge-Ullman is also willing to "meet" with your book club either in person or by telephone depending on her schedule. Click here to contact her and request a date or just to sign up for her newsletter.

FALLING UNDER is available today (July 29th) everywhere!


Anonymous said...

This is definitely going on my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

I just read it. I could not put it down. Great story-telling, and I totally agree about the book club remark in the review. This is a great book.

Anna said...

Wow. I've added this book to my TBR list based on your review. I was really intrigued when you said her prose is "bold." Thanks for the review.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Thanks for the doing such a thoughtful, honest and thorough review! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it and if any of your readers wants has questions for me, I can be contacted through my website, www.danielleyoungeullman.com