Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus

My name is Holly.
This story is about me—
a writer who's way behind
on her deadline. 

But, honestly,
how can I concentrate on my work
when my fiftieth birthday's
rushing at me like a freight train, 

my hormones are making me feel
like a Szechuan flambé,
and my eighty-year-old mother's
biting her nurses? 

Not to mention the fact that my daughter's
just begun applying to colleges
(none of which are within
a thousand-mile radius of home), 

and lately my husband's been
such an irritating, finger-pointing stinker
that I've found myself dreaming of ways
to spend his insurance money . . . 

My name is Holly.
This book
tells my story—
a coming-of-middle-age story. -- Harper

I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS: A NOVEL ABOUT MARRIAGE, MOTHERHOOD, AND MAYHEM by Sonya Sones. I guess I was expecting some sort of mom lit based on the cute front cover, and the novel definitely did have some mom lit elements. However, I was so surprised that the entire book was written in verse. THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS was incredibly original, hilarious, and touching at the same time. It was certainly a winner in my book!

In fact, I enjoyed this novel so much that I read it in one sitting. It only took me a few hours because each chapter is written as a poem rather than paragraph form, and since much of the story is humorous, it was a very quick read. Having said that, I don't want to make it sound like THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS was all light and fluffy. It most definitely wasn't. Parts of the novel (especially the ones about the relationship between her and her daughter) touched my heart a great deal. As I read about her daughter heading off to college, I teared up and had a big old lump in my throat.

While the main character is this story is a few years older than I am, I could definitely relate to her on many levels. I loved how she portrayed her life as a wife and mother, but I thought the scenes about aging were absolutely hilarious. I guess it's better to laugh about these things than to cry! I had to smile at the scene where she takes her daughter shopping and decides to try on the same shirt as her daughter, and the parts about how she was starting to look like her mother were laugh out-loud funny.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS is being billed as a "coming-of-middle-age" story, and I honestly think that's the perfect way to describe this novel. The story touches upon many universal themes of middle age including empty nest syndrome, menopause, insecurities about marriage, realizing one's mortality, and dealing with elderly parents. Now many of the themes I mentioned are very real to a lot of people and definitely not funny; however, Ms. Sones manages to handle these serious issues in a way that will make readers smile. That's not to say that she takes any of theses issues lightly (rather the opposite in my opinion). She just shows that all of these things (the good and the bad) constitute our lives. And we do have to laugh sometimes or else we would cry!

I'm not sure that while I was reading THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS I was thinking book club book. However, I did find a reading guide for this novel. And then I read the questions and thought, "It actually would be a great discussion book because it delves into so many universal themes." I think I've pretty  much covered the major themes in this book, so you can clearly see how interesting a discussion would be for middle-aged women. Ms. Sones even included a recipe for Butterscotch Brownies in the back of the book that would be perfect to serve at your meeting.

I absolutely loved THE HUNCHBACK OF NEIMAN MARCUS. It was an incredibly fun read, but it was also a story that affected me and touched my heart. And that whole poetry thing was just the bow on the top of the package!

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel. Be sure to listen to Book Club Girl's BlogTalk Radio show with Ms. Sones -- it's a good one.


Anonymous said...

I love the "coming of age" tag! Since I'm running rapidly into my thirties, anything that hits on changing in middle life makes me happy, right now. ;O)

bermudaonion said...

I think this is the first time I realized this book is written in verse. From the title, I thought it was chick-lit. The book does sound good, but I'm not sure about the format.

Anonymous said...

I love it, the way it is outlined it looks more interesting than the usual type, and it awakens my book headed mind,,

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rhapsodyinbooks said...

How interesting to write a book in verse. I like the fact that authors are experimenting with different formats! said...

This sounds like a great book. A novel about the transitions in life. I usually don't care for books done in poem format, but I would definitely read this based on the excerpts. Thanks for the review. And I found you through Michelle on Armchair BEA. Nice to meet your blog and connect with others in this book review circle.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to this one. I love the idea of this.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

You read it in one sitting? Those dern verse novelists grab on and don't let go. ;)

Marie said...

This book has been sitting on my shelf for some time. Now that I've read your great review, I'm going to pick it up sooner rather than later. I just know I'm going to enjoy it. Thanks!

Athira said...

That intro itself has me hooked! It definitely sounds interesting, and different!

Sonya said...

Hey Julie P,

I love, love, LOVE this review! Thanks so much for showing your gentle readers my book through your kind and perceptive eyes.

I'd be happy to Skype in to their book club meetings, if they choose to read it!