The Unreliable

You’re looking at the cover of this book, saying:  I loved this movie!

I’m looking at you, saying:  I loved this movie, too!  I’ve seen it twice.  Read the book anyway!

A ridiculous amount of reading goes on here in Carter Library, and I review books on this blog, yet I can’t remember the last time I wanted to shove a book into your hands and stand there, staring, until you started reading it.

I’ve started no less than a dozen books in the last month.  Some were recommended by people “in the know.”  A few got terrific — and I mean outstanding — reviews.  Others were smart mysteries.  I’m in the mood for a smart mystery.  The ones that have disappointed me most are big fat sagas.  Who doesn’t love a big fat saga in summer?

I’ve not gotten past the first 20 or 30 pages of any of them.


I did not borrow these books from the library.  I paid real money for them.

* double sigh *

And then came THE DESCENDANTS, a paperback that’s been resting quietly on the shelf in my living room, collecting dust.  No more.  Here are a few reasons I got up in the middle of the night and finished this great story at 3:30 a.m.

1.  You can’t possibly read the first page or two and put it down.

2.  In the first few pages, this smart writer makes you want to laugh and cry, and she sets up every main character and what’s at stake.  (yes, I know, this is supposed to be a given, but we all know it rarely happens)

3.  The first person narrator.  And as if that’s not enough, it’s told in the present tense.  The unreliable narrator.  How can I believe anything he says?!  The exhausting march of the present tense.  Slow the hell down already! 

4.  Number 3 is the only way to tell this story.  The narrator is unreliable not just to the reader, but to himself.  He trusts nothing he does.  And the narrative has a constant urgency to beat a clock, therefore the present tense.

5.  I saw the movie twice.  I said that.  I know how the story ends.  You know a story is special when you know how it ends and still want to read it anyway to, oddly, find out how it ends.


What’s the last book you couldn’t put down?

30 thoughts on “The Unreliable

  1. LauraMaylene

    You and your book recommendations are so dangerous for me! (See my newest blog post to see why.) But advice taken. This is going on my reading list.

      1. Teri Post author

        Here’s what’s really weird ….. 10 year old Scottie is always wearing an inappropriate t-shirt in this book. One of her first t-shirts reads: Mrs. Clooney.

        Can you even believe that?

  2. Averil Dean

    Oh no, another book on top of my virtual Kindle-pile! Sounds like a good one, Teri.

    The last book I couldn’t put down was GONE GIRL. I was fooled, I’ll admit, and deliciously so. The writing made me swoon, the characters were so strong, and the plot was too tight to find a place to exit. I’ve read it twice. So far.

  3. Sarah W

    I picked up The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter Saturday and didn’t go to bed until two the next morning so I cold finish it.

    It’s about the discovery of infinite, human-free parallel worlds–a discovery that opens up possibilities for the infinite diaspora of humanity, with enough land and resources for every member of our species.

    The societal, cultural, and political changes that come with colonization on a global scale–and the class distinctions among those who can ‘step’ to any world they wish, those who can’t without artificial means, and those who are psychologically or physiologically unequipped to ‘step’–are fascinating.

    And since it’s written by Terry Pratchett, it’s understandable, too, and has a definited sense of humor to it as well.

  4. Alecia

    Teri–I reread my last reply to you, hope it did not offend! Should have clarified. You have a sharp, creative insight that can be challenging in a very good way.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts–keep writing.

    1. Teri Post author

      I would never have read anything offending in your comment. My goodness. And, ahem, it does take a lot to get my attention!

      Hope you and all of your boys (Bruce included, ha) are doing great. I can’t believe we already have another reunion coming up next year —- though, that said, it seems like eons since the last one.

  5. lisahgolden

    I don’t know how long it’s been since a book held me like that. That’s more of a commentary on my state of mind and ability to focus than it is on the books I’ve been choosing. I’m sure of that.

    1. Teri Post author

      I usually (okay, always) blame the lack of “getting into a book” on myself. Not this time. One in particular was so highly touted, so roundly shoved out there by the best and brightest, it pissed me off after about 30 pages. It was not me. It was the book. A story of so much gobbledygook right from the start I could only keep thinking, “how in the hell did this make it into the world?” A great premise that needed a lot more work. And stupid me plopped down $25 for the hardback. I feel like I want to write the publisher and ask for my money back.

    1. Teri Post author

      Particularly if you’re writing a memoir, this is an interesting read. That whole “unreliable narrator” thing. It’s interesting to see how she does it, how she mixes the present with the past, the scenes with introspection. Her timing is impeccable.

  6. Les

    The last book I read and couldn’t put down–in fact, read it twice in non-stop succession–was a novel called Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher. Here’s the prologue: “Everyone has that one line they swear they’ll never cross, the one thing they say they’ll never do. Not something serious like, I’ll never kill anyone, or, I’ll never invade Russia in the winter. Usually, it’s something less earth-shattering.
    I’ll never cheat on her. I’ll never work at a job I hate. I’ll never give up my dreams. We draw the line. Maybe we even believe it. That’s why it’s so hard when we break that promise we make to ourselves. Sage Hendricks was my line.”

    I just thought that was some pretty darn good hookmeonthefirstpage writing, and I think it’s a great book. And Mr. Katcher is a genial guy. I emailed him and told him how much I enjoyed it, and that I’d read it twice. It was a Sunday evening, and he responded quite promptly. He said that he appreciated the comments, and that they made it feel a bit less difficult having to go to work the next morning. Now, I can relate to that!

    1. Teri Post author

      My heart is breaking just reading this one piece. Right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation, Les. I’d have never found it on my own.

  7. Bobbi

    I’d say the last book I really, really couldn’t put down was The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (I think it’s called Someone Knows My Name in the U.S.). The first chapter hooked me hard and fast. Isn’t it just magic when that happens?

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks for bringing this up, Bobbi. I remember reading about your love of this book some time back, and then (as usual if I don’t write it down immediately) forgot. I’m going to check it out.

      By the by, my fingers are crossed for Vevey….

  8. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    Loved the movie. Gotta read this, although I won’t be able to keep from envisioning George Clooney.

    Guess that’s not all bad.

    The last book I couldn’t put down was my own WIP. Not because it was good, but because it wasn’t. Had to keep at the fucker, for years. *sigh*

  9. Pingback: Abdication | Lisa H Golden

  10. girl in the hat

    I don’t take recs from just anybody. but I swear, I’m going to read this one. (I admire your reading schedule. How do you do it? I have at least 5 dusty, dusty books splayed around here, waiting for me to return.)

  11. Jennine G.

    Funny enough, two books by the same author, who I’ve never read before. “11/22/63” and “On Writing.” I don’t like horror so I don’t generally read King, but his non-horror stuff is great. “On Writing” is probably among the top two books on writing I’ve read and I’ve read many recently. (Of course, I’ve just started out again, so experience is lacking for me. People may already get his tips from experience.)

    1. Teri Post author

      On Writing is a good, instructional book, but it’s also inspiring. So much of his personal story in there. It’s a fun read.

  12. macdougalstreetbaby

    I’m ordering it now. Believe it or not, I haven’t seen the movie so I’m even more excited.
    Just finished The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it. It’ll totally make you bawl.

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