The Memoir Club Paperback – April 1, 2005
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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"When you read Laura Kalpakian, you are in the capable and tender hands of a master, and The Memoir Club is proof of her well-honed craft. It is a feat of brilliant execution, with multilayered plots like those of our real lives, and with characters who captivated me with their pasts and presents, as if we were all spellbound in my own living room. The truth-- it is a remarkable novel".
- Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
From the Back Cover
Praise for Laura Kalpakian:
"Whatever happened to old-fashioned stories, with fleshed-out characters, well-crafted plots, strong themes and palpable atmosphere? Laura Kalpakian, for one, still is writing them."
- Wall Street Journal
"Kalpakian creates inspiring, thought-provoking, even bewitching characters."
- Baltimore Sun
[Kalpakian] is so entertaining a writer that it takes a while to realize how smart she is. . . . Generous, gritty, sexy, full of lyrical musings, and funny as all get-out."
- The New Yorker
". . . . Kalpakian writes with a verve that leaves you laughing and contemplating your own ideas of family."
- Chicago Tribune
"Kalpakian [is] at her best-earthy, magical, compassionate, and inventive to the last detail."
- Washington Post
"Kalpakian's observations are sharp, her humor is sweet."
- London Observer
"Kalpakian is an extraordinarily talented writer with an almost intimidating understanding."
- James DeRossitt, Memphis Commercial Appeal
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I think this book started off much slower than the two books I've already mentioned but once it got going, I simply could not put it down. I actually stayed up reading until 2:30AM because I couldn't go to sleep without knowing how it would end. It's much deeper than others I've read with similar premises yet Kalpakian doesn't dwell on the gloom and doom of some of their pasts. She instead celebrates their futures.
You definitely don't fall in love with these characters even though they're well drawn out by the author. Perhaps they're too real -- like anyone else you might meet in your daily life. There seems to be more meat in their stories (their memoirs) giving the author the ability to flesh them out without being too obvious about it.
Through the memoirs they're writing in their extension class, the reader gets to glimpse their past lives and it's a great way to go back in time within the confines of the book. The most interesting thing the women in the memoir class learn is that "the memoir is not and should never be confused with the truth...As a result, truth belongs to the teller." So, while the memoir is the "teller's" truth, it might not essentially be "the truth." While writing these memoirs, each of these women will come upon secrets in their past that might not be as truthful as they want their pasts to be.
I highly recommend this book and encourage the reader to join these women as they delve into their pasts and form a new future together at the same time.
I would, however, be remiss if I didn't mention something that almost ruined this book for me. In the first sentence of the "Acknowledgments", the author thanks her editor for her "wise editorial eye." My advice to her editor is twofold...get a pair of eyeglasses and go back and get a refresher course in English grammar. There are no less than twenty different errors in this book. When I hit the first one or two, I shook my head and moved on. When there got to be more than one on the same page, I got angry. If we as readers are willing to spend good money on a hardcover book, I realize that the publisher can't always guarantee that we'll love the story but they should be promising a well-edited book. Shame on you St. Martin's Press.
The premise of the book -- the memoir class -- is great, and a lot of it rings true to the memoir classes that I've taken: how everyone seems to have a sad, or even tragic, story in them somewhere. The writing is also quite good. But some of the plot twists seem thin and contrived, and there's no good resolution for a lot of the stories. Things are far too easy in a number of cases, such as the "Talking Kimono" (which is a fun concept.) A few twists are almost nauseatingly unbelievable.
There were also some curious structural choices. Why are some of the vignettes in first person and others in third? This was disorienting. Also, though Nell was clearly a main character, SHE never actually wrote a memoir, which seemed unbalanced. Come on -- after everybody else discovers things about themselves through looking hard at their pasts, it's hard to buy that her past of "Micks and Poles" doesn't have anything interesting in it at all.
A good read. But it has problems.