Thursday, September 29, 2011
Shortly before his wedding, the unnamed hero of this uncommon romance is visited by a man who claims to be his future self and ominously admonishes him that he must not marry the love of his life, Q. At first the protagonist doubts this stranger, but in time he becomes convinced of the authenticity of the warning and leaves his fiancée. The resulting void in his life is impossible to fill. One after the other, future selves arrive urging him to marry someone else, divorce, attend law school, leave law school, travel, join a running club, stop running, study the guitar, the cello, Proust, Buddhism, and opera, and eliminate gluten from his diet. The only constants in this madcap quest for personal improvement are his love for his New York City home and for the irresistible Q.
A unique literary talent, Evan Mandery turns the classic story of transcendent love on its head, with an ending that will melt even the darkest heart. -- Harper
When I read that Book Club Girl was doing a show with Evan Mandery author of Q: A NOVEL, I immediately signed up to participate. The premise of this novel sounded very unique and like nothing I've ever read before. In one way, it sounded a bit like science fiction with a time travel element. But on the other hand, it sounded like a coming-of-age story. I figured I'd give it a try since I love coming-of-age tales and personal growth stories. I just hoped that I'd be able to accept the sci-fi parts.
As I read the first part of the novel, I found myself really enjoying Q. I appreciated the narrator's voice and I enjoyed learning about his relationship with Q. In many ways, it was a sweet love story and I was definitely intrigued when the narrator's future self showed up. All was good -- the character development, the storyline and the writing; however, it didn't exactly stay that way for me. I found myself gradually losing interest in the narrator's life story and the novelty of the future selves (with their words of advice) eventually wore off. I won't go so far as to say that I didn't want to finish the novel, but I was disappointed that the beginning was my favorite part.
Was there something specifically wrong with this novel or the story? I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it was just me since there are plenty of extremely positive reviews out there. I just think I enjoyed the initial direction of the story, when Q was a major character, much more than what occurred after Q was gone. Then the story became all about the narrator, his future selves, and his choices. Furthermore, the book started reading more like a philosophical treatise with many profound ideas about life. At times, I found that these ideas weren't resonating with me; and at other times, I found that I just wasn't all that interested. Perhaps this type of book just isn't my thing, and most likely, I'm just not smart enough to grasp all of the ideas.
As I look back on this novel, I will admit that it did give me a lot to think about. And for that, I am very glad that I read it. I did appreciate the concept of the future selves and I liked how they changed based on the narrator's decisions. (I don't want to say too much more because it's best to experience these future selves on your own.) I also enjoyed the humor that was woven into the story (I know... it doesn't sound like a funny book, but it is.) And while some of the philosophy parts of the book bored me or were over my head, I did find some of the ideas presented to be rather interesting.
Based on what I said in the last paragraph, I do think Q would make an interesting book club discussion... for some book clubs. I'm not sure my personal one would appreciate it, but I do think groups who are more focused on literary fiction and philosophy would. There is a reading guide available which touches upon some very thought-provoking themes. Some of the topics that you might want to explore include moral and ethical issues, technology, choices, forgiveness, love, redemption, and second chances.
While I didn't exactly love Q: A NOVEL, I did appreciate it. And I do think many readers will enjoy this novel and find that this story resonates with them.
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.