I’m back from vacation and almost ready to read Salman Rushdie. I mean, I’m not totally ready to read Salman Rushdie, but almost ready. It is a long road from vacation reads to literary fiction, but I am just the girl to take it, I think. When last I left you, I had just irritated my brain with Dear Reader, a book that makes even less sense to me in retrospect, and The Fact of a Body, no one’s idea of relaxing reading. While on a retreat in Tuscany (sometimes my life isn’t terrible) I had very little mental energy for complex fiction so I read mostly crap. So what we’re going to do next here is talk about Young Jane Young, a funny and least crappy book of the crap I read, the new novel by Gabrielle Zevin, the author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and then I’m going to drag you down into everything else I poisoned myself with over the last two weeks. You’re welcome.
At the heart of the story is Jane Young, who is actually Aviva Grossman, a Monica Lewinsky-esque woman who long ago had an affair with a Congressman while working on his campaign in college. As the law of the world dictates, once this affair became public Aviva was a laughingstock and a national embarrassment and the Congressman gets off completely unscathed because everything is the worst and nothing is fair. As Aviva discovers that she is pregnant and all of her potential and ambition is snuffed out, she finds that her only real option is to change her name and move to Maine (as one does) to start over. She reinvents herself as a wedding planner and raises her daughter Ruby to be an ass-kicking whip-smart feminist. All is well for a long time, until Jane’s political ambitions rise up in her again and she decides to run for local office when naturally her past may come back to haunt her.
Young Jane Young is told through four female narrators, which was ambitious and fun. The first narrator is Rachel, who is Aviva/Jane’s mother and a Florida mom who has recently divorced her husband and is very reluctantly back on the dating scene. Rachel tells her story of adjustment to life after family infamy and a messy divorce and losing touch with her daughter. The other two narrators are Jane’s daughter Ruby, who is hilarious, and Embeth, the wife of the Congressman.
This is a catchy book – I deeply admire that the point of view changed so dramatically with each new narrator and I thought for sure I would hate one of them, but was surprised to find that they were all interesting and funny and witty in very different ways. This is a seemingly shallow-ish read which will surprise you with its intelligent insights. I also enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which is similar in tone and depth.
Young Jane Young – Grade B+