Monday, April 2, 2012

Oxford Messed Up: a novel by Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Review based on ARC.

Phew, where to start.

Let's see, perhaps the beginning...
The beginning was not the strongest part of the book and I felt somewhat patronized - like the author was trying to both trick me into not understanding Gloria's true relationship with Oliver and giving me obvious clues.  So the first 20-40 pages I read because I was intrigued by the topic, pleased with the title, and because it was easy enough to read... but not because any of the characters were particularly compelling.

Around page 40/50, however, I began to lose sight of "the topic," "the title," or anything but the story, really.  And in the end, that's always what I'm really looking for -- a well told story.  In this case, it was even better because it was accompanied by good writing.  Very good writing (though not spectacular).  There were moments when I felt that the author wanted to educate me, more than share with me the story.  But these moments were few and far in between.  Although the novel IS educational on many fronts, it is first and foremost a story about Gloria, Henry, and Oliver.

I actually cried.  I certainly laughed.  And I read it quickly and voraciously.  It was convincing, not terribly contrived, and redeeming.  I felt strong emotions for Gloria, Henry, and Oliver... I felt *some* emotions for the more peripheral characters Claire, Nicholas, Margo, Gladys, and Frank.... so much so that I even remembered their names!  I will not say *which* emotions I felt for them, but I imagine that, in a conversation with someone else who has read the book, some of my responses will be surprising...

Kudos to Ms. Kaufman.  I appreciate that she did not give into some of the traps that often result in cliched stories and contrived endings ... while still providing a complete and satisfying story.  I won't say more... just, read it.  If you know someone who suffers from any level of OCD, if you yourself suffer from any level of OCD, if you know of no one who suffers from OCD, if you don't even know why I keep repeating those letters.... read the book.  It's a lovely story.  It certainly is as it is touted to be -- a story about "messed up" people, about cognitive behavior therapy, about fatalistic optimism... but it's also just a good story.  A story about people with their own quirks, with their own histories, with their own demons, their own choices to learn and live.

FOUR AND A HALF of five stars.

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