Subscribe to Jessica's exclusive newsletter

Subscribe to Jessica's newsletter

* indicates required

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan

The Red Book was hard for me to get into because it starts with the least sympathetic character, then proceeds to introduce a number of characters it's nearly impossible to keep track of, hopping in and out of all their heads like an especially psychologically perceptive housefly. By the tenth page, I had decided that, in spite of my interest in Ivy League culture and love of Boston, I was not the right audience for this book. But I'm not a reader who gives up easily, and I found that by the middle of the book, when we start to see some of the more meaningful revelations, I was well-trained in jumping between the characters' perspectives, and by the end, the technique actually worked in the story's favor. Not a Harvard alum, I've never read a "red book," so was skeptical as to whether the personal essays were realistic, but they served as convenient character guides when I just couldn't figure out who was who otherwise.

I haven't read any of the author's other books, but she does have some clout coming in, and by the time I was three-quarters of the way through, I had decided she had enough psychological depth to carry off what she was trying to do. I ended up really enjoying the way she takes each character and implies big themes about that character's stage in life. I never did sympathize with that first character, Addison. However, her story arc included a really terrible husband who was echoed lightly in one of the others, and both husbands left the picture. That contributed to the satisfying sense that in spite of all the things that have gone so terribly, everybody's going to be just fine. 

This book about Harvard alums will astonish with the incredible range of life experience it manages to pack in, and give book clubs in particular a lot to talk about.

The Red Book will be released in April from Hyperion Voice.