I'll Give You Something to Cry About
Author: Jennifer Finney Boylan
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.
Here's another writer who thinks a book is entitled instead of just being titled. I'm in favor of entitlements, but not when it comes to books. I don't know of any entitled books, but I guess I'm fighting a losing battle on behalf of the English language and all who rail in her. Other than that (and the rather odd title itself), this novel started out intriguingly. I mean, what's not to engage the imagination in a Toyota Sienna minivan full of people of assorted ages, all of whom seem to be carrying a sorry-load of pills?
There's "Gammie" (shades of Dana Carvey) who comes armed with Lopressor (aka metoprolol, used for cardiovascular issues, particularly hypertension or high blood pressure). There's a young boy Otis, who carries Luvox (aka Fluvoxamine, used to treat OCD). There's the former son, now daughter Alex, who carries Spironolactone (an antiandrogen) and Premarin (a contraction of "pregnant mares' urine" - a type of HRT, or hormone replacement therapy) as well as stilettos and fishnet stockings(!). Riley, who's driving, has Celexa (aka Citalopram, an anti-depressant). Oh, and he has a prosthetic leg - a victim of cancer, for which he has an unfulfilled script. This is not a recipe written in Heaven, but it is a great recipe for a story!
The end point of that journey, but starting point of the story, is a ramshackle building in Manchester (New England, not Olde Englande) where Riley's estranged wife Junie decided to take a sabbatical to do something (writing) for herself.
Once she's on-board, the minivan heads towards Washington DC where Otis is supposed to play in a band for the vice-president. Road trip!
This novel bounces around between the characters. All is not well between Riley and Junie since they both have a different take on where their marriage is going (or not going). Otis is nervous about his performance. All is not well, either, between Riley and Alex, since he's not really on-board with her gender reassignment, which is why he's baulking at paying for her actual surgery. Right now she's what some people term a 'shemale': to all outward appearances female, including breasts, except for the fact that she still has male genitalia.
For me, Alex's story was the most engrossing and the best written. It really took an uptick, too, when she encountered a Geordie - amusingly while looking at the Liberty Bell! How portentous is that?! Lucas, in some regards, seemed to be a bit of a stalker, but in the end, his intentions were, whilst way too amorous, largely honorable. What really capped this for me was Alex's internal monologue. That, I thought, was brilliantly done.
I was less enamored of Riley and Junie, because their story was - intentionally, I should note - a complete mess, but even that had its moments, particularly when Riley had flashbacks to his younger self, right at the point where he first started becoming involved with Junie. The ending for me was a bit odd, and I enjoyed the part with Alex much more than the part with Junie and Riley.
Having said that, I recommend this novel for its originality and inventiveness, and for the really great character portrayals.