Monday, August 15, 2011

What’s so “Serendipity” about it?

for tk.

Serendipity by Louise Shaffer

When you spend more time looking at the amazing skirt in the cover art than you spent thinking about the book, something's wrong.

I just finished Louise Shaffer’s Serendipity, which is about 3 generations of women in the New York/Broadway scene. Carrie’s beautiful mother, Rose, has just died, leaving Carrie grieving for a mother she never really knew. When she tries to piece her mother’s life together, she realizes she can only truly understand her family if she finally meets her estranged grandmother, Lu, a Broadway star in the 1950’s. Of course there was a slight mystery element to this book that kept me reading, but there were a few things I found lacking. As Carrie meets different people in her mother’s and grandmother’s lives, that may help her understand her past, the characters begin telling Carrie stories. The narration is then sent back to the time when the story is taking place. Except the story the reader reads is full of perspectives from people who are not telling the story: perspectives the person telling the story would not be privy to. In other words, Shaffer attempts this storytelling device, but doesn’t quite succeed. I kept asking myself, how does he know that, he wasn’t there? Secondly, as far as I know, serendipity means something surprising and great happening through luck or chance. There’s nothing in the book that, to me, is really that serendipitous. I’m sure Shaffer could have thought of a more meaningful title. Combine all that with a protagonist who not even the author seems to favor when compared with her beautiful mother and talented grandmother, and we get a book that’s pretty much meh. I guess they can’t all be winners, but from the reviews, I was expecting a little more.

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