Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just Fall by Nina Sadowsky


Rating: WARTY!

I had problems with this advance review copy right from the start. It felt more like experimental fiction - even though it technically wasn't - than it did a regular novel. There are 74 chapters, but the chapter numbers have been removed and all the odd chapters have been titled 'Now' and all but the last of the even ones titled 'Then'. The very last is titled 'Next'. I saw no practical utility in listing seventy four chapters in the contents with every other title the same and then linking them to the respective chapter.

As for the novel itself, it was irritating and pedantic. It felt like a bad rendition of Christopher Nolan's Memento movie. The repetitive flashbacks became quickly annoying because they frustratingly and dedicatedly interrupted the far more interesting 'Now' chapters which told a real story of a woman in serious trouble. In the end, it felt like this was a short story which the author had then extensively padded by inventing fluff to make a disordered back story which was interleaved with the current story. I found myself skimming and then skipping the 'Then' chapters in short order. The backstory was boring, and largely irrelevant at least as far as I read, which was about 65%.

Ellie, the main character, appears in the first Now, and she's in a hotel room with a male body which has been stabbed while laying on the bed. Ellie wipes the room down for prints and leaves, changing her appearance from time to time in minor ways such as by wearing scarves and sunglasses, dying her hair, putting on fake nails, and so on. She seems at a loose end, until she decides to leave the Caribbean island she's on, whereupon she's picked up by someone working for the guy who evidently wanted the man in her room dead.

The first 'Then' introduces her husband, Rob, on their wedding day. Right after they're married, he reveals a devastating secret to her, but we're not told what that secret is until later. Subsequent chapters introduce Lucien, the harried cop who is assigned to investigate the hotel murder, and told to resolve it quickly for the sake of the tourist industry. So far so good. The problem is that the 'Then' chapters are used increasingly, and from early on, to give this huge backstory for Ellie and Rob, and it wasn't interesting to me. It was actually very annoying because I wanted the 'Now' and could not care less about the 'Then'.

Another issue was with the obsession with beauty. I read about it more than once. On one occasion it appeared in the form of "A smile crossed her face, and suddenly she was warm, and therefore even more beautiful." It was like this female author, who is listed as "entertainment lawyer, executive, producer, director, writer, author, and beloved USC professor" was insisting that the only important thing about this female was skin-deep, otherwise forget her, and I didn't get it at all. Ellie quite evidently had other qualities as I read later, so why focus on the beauty instead of on her much more practical and interesting qualities? Are we that shallow? Are women that devalued? Are they that one-dimensional?

As I said, I reached a point about 65% of the way in when I really could sustain interest no longer. The endless flashbacks were mind-numbing and even the 'Now' the story was losing my interest. It was so broken up by the interleaved 'Then' that it was just obnoxious and I skipped screen after screen to get back to the 'Now' where nothing much was happening anyway. I decided I needed to move on to a more engrossing read. I can't recommend this.


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