Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: June 23rd 2020 by Scribner
Rated 2 of 5 stars
This is my first Robin Wasserman novel and I’m not sure if her style of writing or if the plot of this particular novel did not resonate with me. Either way, here’s a brief synopsis via Goodreads:
Who is Wendy Doe? The woman, found on a Peter Pan Bus to Philadelphia, has no money, no ID, and no memory of who she is, where she was going, or what she might have done. She’s assigned a name and diagnosis by the state: Dissociative fugue, a temporary amnesia that could lift at any moment—or never at all. When Dr. Benjamin Strauss invites her to submit herself for experimental observation at his Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research, she feels like she has no other choice.
To Dr. Strauss, Wendy is a female body, subject to his investigation and control. To Strauss’s ambitious student, Lizzie Epstein, she’s an object of fascination, a mirror of Lizzie’s own desires, and an invitation to wonder: once a woman is untethered from all past and present obligations of womanhood, who is she allowed to become?
To Alice, the daughter she left behind, Wendy Doe is an absence so present it threatens to tear Alice’s world apart. Through their attempts to untangle the mystery of Wendy’s identity—as well as Wendy’s own struggle to construct a new self—Wasserman has crafted a jaw-dropping, multi-voiced journey of discovery, reckoning, and reclamation.
First, I’ll be completely transparent. I did not (and could not) finish this novel. So what you are reading will be up until the halfway point which I think is a generous amount of time for a novel to make you feel something, anything. This novel did do this. Matter of fact, I felt completely confused, sometimes preached at, and bored. I really loved the premise but this fell completely flat by the jumping back and forth between present and past as well as the authors choice to talk in circles or pontificate for a full chapter with a character. I liked to read character’s living through something actual, not in theory. I couldn’t bear to read about a person’s thoughts for pages and have no actual action in the story towards the mystery of Wendy Doe. Even Wendy Doe’s section was very bland, albeit because she has no memory of who she is, but I could have done without her reminding me every chapter of her narration that she doesn’t know who she is and theoretically thinking about who she could’ve been. It got tired really, really quickly.
Alice was not anyone with any true identity. She tied everything to “my mother told me to do this or that” instead of standing in who she thought she was. Again, we saw no real action between her and real life until she has an intimate encounter with a stranger which comes across very distant and strange so I again, didn’t know how to feel about it, or Alice for that matter. Same with Lizzie, we viewed from a bleacher seat her relationship with Strauss (very far removed) so I felt nothing tying me to her. I did wonder what happened to Wendy as well as Strauss but not enough to continue. Maybe this book was too “deep” for me and it just went over my head with the scientific memory preaching or the historical information? But the author’s sentence choices or descriptors seemed so random and far out there that it took away from the scene rather than add depth to it. So, after a grueling week of trying to find a bright spot in this novel, I’ve resigned myself to put it down. I may try another Wasserman novel to see if her writing style changes based on the story she’s telling. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you like the scientific and theoretical style novels without many real interactions.
Raging Book Reviews
*Special thanks to the author, #Netgalley and #Scribner for gifting a copy for an honest review.