Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

The Hole We’re In, by Gabrielle Zevin. Black Cat (2010), 283 pages.

This is one of those novels that started off so well I set everything else aside for the weekend, settled myself onto the couch with a big blanket and a cup of tea, and commenced what was to be a lovely long couple of days of nothing but reading. But alas, it was not to be. What more bitter disappointment is there than falling in love with a book, feeling confident and certain in that love, and committing your entire weekend to that book, only to be betrayed by a wandering plot?

The Hole We’re In begins with a family in denial, each member carrying a secret they are working desperately to avoid facing. I was utterly captivated by the voice of the father in the first chapter, and then by the mother and each of the children as well. The plot was building to what was sure to be a fabulous denouement when suddenly… the author drops everything and takes us six years into the future?!? And then after a few chapters, six more years, and then 10 years?

I don’t object to this in a novel as a matter of course, but to take these kinds of leaps into the future, one must have finished telling the story that one began. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Zevin’s story. Again and again, just when things begin to get interesting she abandons the plot, and chooses instead to move the character ahead into a completely different setting and conflict, leaving the reader in a coitus interruptus-like state.

And to make matters worse, the storyline the author jumps ahead to is not even compelling. The writing becomes flat, the dialogue is bad, and the momentum has been entirely destroyed. I can’t begin to understand the reason for the author’s choices here. Did she get bored with her own plot? Was she stuck in the writing and decided the solution was just to skip over the difficult parts? Did she actually think leaving out the emotional payoff for the reader was the best way to tell the story?

The good news is that Zevin clearly has some real talent and though this is not a book worth reading (much less setting aside your whole weekend for) I recommend keeping an eye out for her next effort.

“Listen, Patsy, I know you don’t think I’ve been the perfect father to you. I know you probably think I’ve made mistakes. But the reason I’m holding to this is because I don’t want you to repeat any of the mistakes I might have made. And I want you to know that I’ll be praying for you, Patsy.”

She knew that I’ll be praying for you translated to FUCK YOU in Christian. “DON’T FUCKING PRAY FOR ME. I DON’T WANT YOUR FUCKING PRAYERS!”

“I’ll be praying for you anyway,” Roger said and then he hung up the phone.