Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: The Atlas of Love

Summary: When Jill becomes both pregnant and single at the end of one spring semester, she and her two closest friends plunge into an experiment in tri-parenting, tri-schooling, and trihabitating as grad students in Seattle. Naturally, everything goes wrong, but in ways no one sees coming. Janey Duncan narrates the adventure of this modern family with hilarity and wisdom and shows how three lives are forever changed by (un)cooperative parenting, literature, and a tiny baby named Atlas who upends and uplifts their entire world. In this sparkling and wise debut novel, Frankel’s unforgettable heroines prove that home is simply where the love is. -- St. Martin's Press

I was initially drawn to THE ATLAS OF LOVE by Laurie Frankel because it sounded like a unique perspective on a dysfunctional family. And for whatever reason, I always seem to appreciate a good story about "different" families. What could be more unique that three friends who decide to co-parent (well actually tri-parent) while also going to graduate school and attempting to have somewhat normal lives? I pretty much figured how this story would end (think train wreck!), but I was hoping that the ride along the way would be interesting...

It was and it wasn't. And that's one of my biggest issues with writing this review. I'm not exactly sure how I felt about this book. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I loved THE ATLAS OF LOVE, I did find it a worthwhile read and I would recommend it to certain readers. I enjoyed Ms. Frankel's writing and character development but I never felt as if any of the characters really resonated with me. (I'm willing to admit that my issues could have to do with my age.) I realize that I don't have to "like" characters to appreciate a book, and basically, I think that's where I am with THE ATLAS OF LOVE. I'll just say that I appreciated it.

There were definitely some very good aspects of this novel, and I think Laurie Frankel's writing style is what most jumps out to me. She did the basic things really well, but I liked the special touches she put into this book. For example, she gave the reader an honest look at college life from a graduate student's perspective. As someone who went to evening classes to get an MBA, I found the full-time academic lifestyle to be fascinating. In addition, I enjoyed that Janey (the narrator of the story) often times compared her life to a great work of literature. By referencing major pieces of literary fiction along with the characters' graduate work in literature, I felt as if the author showed how good books and literature are not only timeless but filled with universal themes!

The ending of the book was somewhat predictable but it didn't matter -- it still worked. And I found that this novel was so much than just a story (I realize that sounds weird.) What I most appreciated about this story was how it delved into the issues of love, friendships, relationships, and parenting...and how much it made me think. So much of this book explored some very non-traditional choices and parenting styles, and it really made me consider what constitutes a family. THE ATLAS OF LOVE provides a very unique perspective on the ups and downs of life, love and friendships.

While I wasn't able to find a reading guide, I do think THE ATLAS OF LOVE would make for an interesting discussion. There are some rather unconventional relationships in this novel, and I would love to hear what my friends think about the various characters and their actions. Some of the topics you might want to discuss include friendships, honesty, love, the definition of the term family, parent/child relationships, acceptance, motherhood and academic life.

Thanks to SheKnows Book Club for sending me a copy of this novel. There will be a SheKnows Book Club Discussion of THE ATLAS OF LOVE on March 31, 2011. You can read more about the details here.

8 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great honest review! It doesn't sound like the book for me, although I think I would like the references to literature!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'll probably pass (as I sit here looking at the pile of books that are ready to fall on top of me), but boy is that baby on cover sure cute!

bermudaonion said...

This kind of reminds me of Three Men and a Baby but with women instead. It sounds like it could be a fun read to me!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

For whatever reason, this cover sucks me in every time...it's so beautiful :)

heyiwanttoreadthat.com said...

I'm sort of ambivalent about this one. I've heard a couple of similar comments made about it. But, I just love the cover. With such a large stack of books and a wish list a mile long I may skip this one.

Kailana said...

I would probably like the references to literature, but overall doesn't sound like a good choice for me. Good review, though!

diaryofaneccentric said...

Not sure I want to read it, but the literature references sound neat.

Swapna said...

I skimmed your review because I still have this one to read, but it's good to know you had mixed feelings about it. It'll help me temper my expectations.