Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: If You Walked In My Shoes

I picked out the audio book If You Walked In My Shoes, By Gwynne Forster using the 9 Month Method. That is, our 9 month old knocked it off the shelf while I was hurriedly picking out a book-on-CD, I grabbed it and fled the library.

I was almost immediately disappointed by the book. The book starts off with heavy and traumatic stuff - both rape and abuse. Yuck. But, I really don't like to quit a book without giving it a chance. And so slogged on. (Of course, it's not the author's fault the material was so heavy -- that's what I implicitly signed up for when I rented the book.)

As the book proceeded, I liked it less and less. Shira pleaded with me to return it, rather than here me complain about it. But, I stuck with it.

In the first few chapters of the book, the setup is complete: you've got a successful social worker who 30 years ago gave up a child after she was raped, and you've got her child being placed in an abusive home, who seeks revenge on the mother who gave her up for adoption. It contains exactly the misunderstandings and confusion you'd expect. Other than a moment where the whole setup clicked for me, there were essentially no other surprises in the book.

The message of the book is spelled out in the title -- if each of us were in the other's place, our behavior would make sense. Oh, and vengeance is a bad thing too.

While I could complain about the book at length, there really are only two egregious issues:

  1. The main character, the one who gave up the child, is supposed to be the world's greatest social worker (hence her rocketing to fame). Problem is, the way she behaves at work - especially to a rape victim she encounters - is reprehensible, and probably criminal. I could suspend disbelief for quite a few parts of the book, but the notation that this character was a word renowned social worker was too much to swallow.
  2. Perhaps the bigger issue is that it's written with a sort of Soap Opera style of writing. One of the marvels of a show like Days of Our Lives (and don't ask me how I know this) is that the plots are summarized every few minutes so that new viewers, or viewers who missed episodes, can come up to speed immediately. That's got to be one of the reasons Soap Operas are so addictive. You can always jump in and start following along. And so it was with this book. Every few minutes (remember, I'm doing the audio version), the author would restate the character's positions. It's as if she didn't trust her readers to read the entire book, or to be able to connect the dots. I get it -- the main character is scared of being exposed. You don't have to remind me of this every few minutes. I go it.

Bottom line -- this probably could have made a fairly novel short story. But as a full length novel, nope. It's got an interesting start, a long and exhausting build up, and a climax that just leaves you wondering why you sat through hours of the book.

Pass on this one.

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