by Meg Wolitzer
A group of six teens meet while attending an artsy summer camp and decide to call themselves The Interestings. There’s the wildly talented graphic artist Ethan, beautiful playwright Ash and her volatile brother Goodman, Jonah the sensitive son of a folk singer and the brash dancer Cathy. Then there’s Jules, the average girl through whose eyes we see much of their lives unfold.
The story begins with their meeting in the 1970s and jumps around to present day and everywhere in between for the rest of the book. I'd heard mixed reviews of this one before starting it. I decided I needed a wide berth from both the hype and backlash before reading it. I'm so glad I waited. I listen to the audiobook and it was one of my favorites I've heard in a long time.
The fascinating thing about The Interestings is the intimate way at taps into feelings we've all experienced. We see jealousy, frustration, resentment, rejection, heartbreak, etc. played out in the tight knit group. Those moments where we are all the most vulnerable as laid out for the reader to see. We watch the characters develop from enthusiastic and earnest teens into reflective adults, though the scars of their youth are always present just beneath the surface. They each allow some part of their teenage years to define who they are throughout their entire life. They are victims of abuse or the plain one longing for a different life. They are rejected lovers constantly trying to prove their worth or the cocky teen who no real goals.
Each character rang true for me; they were people I could meet in real life. They struggle with the fears we all feel: should I love my children more, should I be self-conscious about my financial status, etc. I've heard many people criticize the books size of meandering style. In this case that worked well for me, because how often do our lives feel that way? Events happen and then are folded into the narrative, becoming part of every one's story in a different way.
Truly one of the most interesting characters wasn't one of the Interestings at all. The spouse of one of the original group doesn't join the scene until after their roles are established, but he's able to give the reader unique view into their world. He's on the peripheral of the group, part of it, but never allowed into the inner circle. His perspectives help the reader to better understand the group, both their attraction and their destructive nature.
BOTTOM LINE: I had such a hard time turning off the book each day and for me that's always a strong indicator of how I feel about it. Is the group self-involved, a bit narcissistic in the way they see themselves and their importance? Of course they are, but it's easy to be seduced into their world and I savored every self-absorbed second.