For some reason I avoided Meg Wolitzer’s bestselling novel. I like her writing a lot, and I’d certainly read wonderful reviews of her latest book. I guess it was the idea of the story – that a group of kids at an artsy summer camp in the 1970s would call themselves “The Interestings,” It felt smug and turned me off.
But as my business trip to Arkansas approached, I realized I didn’t have plane reading for my Kindle so I went on Amazon, found the book and hit “Buy.” I was pleasantly surprised and found myself completely immersed in the story, couldn’t stop reading and finished it this weekend. I don’t know how Wolitzer managed to juggle such a large cast of characters over such a sweeping period of time and make each one so multi-layered, but she did.
I loved reading about these people and their lives – from their teenage years through their 20s and into their 50s. Jules is the awkward one who wants to be an actress/comedienne but doesn’t have the talent, settling for a career as a therapist in New York, married to Dennis, an ultrasound technician, envying her more exceptional summer camp friends. Ash is the beautiful, delicate one, raised by parents to excel. Her brother Goodman is the charismatic screw-up, believing he’s exceptional but acting like a pain in the ass and never getting his act together. Jonah, the son of a famous bohemian folk singer, is the sensitive, unknowable one whose musical talent was suppressed during his youth by an unscrupulous father-figure. And Ethan is the genius cartoonist, unattractive physically but so talented and ethical that people are drawn to him and his wealth and power.
This core group moves through many time periods and passages, and Wolitzer gets all the background details just right. She presents their dramas in a way that allows them to take their turns telling the story but she maintains a third person narrative voice. Not easy to do. When I got to the last page, I was sorry the novel was over: the mark of a very good book.