Sunday, September 15, 2013

Endless Love--Book Review

This is the third of the Scott Spencer novels that I've read.  It is supposed to be his masterpiece.  I am glad I did not read this one first because I enjoyed so much Man in the Woods and Men in Black--two more recently written books. This one I did not like much at all and would not have read the others had I read this one beforehand.

The book is about a teenager who is obsessed with love.  How obsessed?  In the first pages we find out that he has been banned from his lover's home by her parents (and later discover that the lover was not averse to the banning).  He decides--again in the first few pages so this is not giving anything away--that the way to get to see her again is to start a fire outside of her family's home so that the lover, Jade, will have to come out of the house and he, David, will coincidentally be on the street then and see her again.  So, we are talking obsessed.  The novel continues to follow several years in David's life with and without Jade focusing on David's experience.

I did not like the book because I do not much like people like David.  He is insensitive and beyond rude to his loving parents, breaks the law, thinks nothing of sapping his family of money, is unconcerned with the effects of his behavior on the rest of Jade's family, and, oh yes, burns a house down.  All justified, implicitly, because he loves Jade.

The people I like most in the book are the people negatively affected by the inconsiderate behavior justified in the name of pursuing one's love: David's devoted parents, Jade's father, siblings, and to a lesser extent Jade's mother.

The author tells this tale in the first person, so the insensitivities may be evidence of effective writing depicting how a person obsessed with love loses sight of everything other than the pursuit of that love. Characters in the story just drop out of the narrative when they cease to matter to David.  For example, we don't hear a word about David's parents for about 100 pages. They play an important part in the story, but they do not appear to enter into David's consciousness at a time when any conscious reader would say, "he's got to get in touch with the people in Chicago."  At first I thought this was a flaw in the novel, and then I thought that to David his parents were not significant.  Peripheral characters become peripheral to the story line in the same way that someone who is obsessed makes everyone and everything peripheral to their obsession.  Nevertheless, obsessed people do not get a pass on their basic human and filial responsibilities.

I don't think a book can be salvaged by a single paragraph. However, the last paragraph of the book is special.  If you have been filled up by love and pained when it is no longer there, you have experienced the sensation depicted in these last sentences.  And I'm glad I read the book if for no other reason than I will always have that image and description in my head.

I add the following now a few hours after I initially posted this blog.  The last paragraph is even more powerful the more it stays in my head. It does not justify David's behavior, but it highlights the obsession and, to me at least, has an illuminating effect on the rest of the novel.

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