Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: "Reunion" by Hannah Pittard

Hannah Pittard, who impressed me with her debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, does the same thing with her second novel, the family drama, Reunion. I had some qualms about giving this book my highest rating. It has a few cheap moments and a few unoriginal passages, and doesn’t mine any new ideas from the rich genre of the family novel, but ultimately, what charmed me about it was the characters and the setting, and how real and honest they were, and what might be my favorite narrator I have come across through this year’s readings. In its familiarity, it becomes weirdly engaging as it shows a long fractured family coming together in the wake of their dad’s suicide, and we, as readers can’t wait to find out how everything resolves itself. It is a relatively short book; being a shade under 300 pages, but has a large cast of characters and hanger-ons. Some are bound to fall by the wayside or get lost in the shuffle once things get moving, but it is anchored by the three central siblings, one of whom is the aforementioned narrator, who shine so brightly in their words actions, and in the case of the narrator, thoughts, they can’t help but illuminate those around them who we as readers don’t know much about and are just passing through the greater action of the novel. The narrator I keep bringing up is Kate Pulaski, a screenwriter teaching in Chicago, who gets a call when her plane lands letting her know that her estranged father has just killed himself. This news, along with mountains of debt and her failing marriage (for reasons I will get to) forces her inward, which creates problems for her two loved siblings, Elliot and Nell, as well as Sasha, their father’s fifth and final wife, who is about the same age as Kate. She flies down to Atlanta to arrange the wake and the funeral. While down there, she makes many contradictory mistakes, betrays her family and finally tries to make sense of her crumbling life. Kate is the most fascinating narrator I have seen in a while. She is someone filled to the brim with arrogance, hypocrisy and immaturity. She despises her dad for his unfaithful ways, but she herself destroyed her marriage to Peter, a man she truly loves, for a sad fling. She condescends to Mindy, her half-sister through Sasha for her naiveté, but has flights of fancy involving Matt Damon. She loves her two siblings, but makes a terrible mistake when one is in need. But she wins our hearts by the end, through the little bit of light that begins to shine through in the family’s time of need and her brutally honest recognition of all of her shortcomings. In the end, its’ the reader is not to sure if she can save herself, but there is no doubt that she means well. For all its dreariness, this book made me feel full of joy, the kind of feeling all good books can and should, provide for eager readers.

Rating: 5/5

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