Remember how I was looking for a book to take me out of my reading funk a few weeks ago? Well, I found it. This is the book that re-energized my love of reading.
Summary (from the cover):
We meet Finny Short as an observant, defiant fourteen-year-old who can’t make sense of her family’s unusual habits. Her mother offers guidance appropriate for a forty-year-old socialite; her father quotes Nietzsche over pancakes. Finny figures she’s stuck with this lonely lot until she meets Earl Henckel, a boy who comes from an even stranger place than she does. Unhappy with Finny’s budding romance with Earl, her parents ship her off to Thorndon boarding school. But mischief follows Finny as she befriends New York heiress Judith Turngate, a girl whose charm belies a disquieting reckless streak. Finny’s relationships with Judith and Earl open her up to dizzying possibilities of love and loss, and propel her into a remarkable adventure spanning twenty years and two continents.
I was taken in by Finny, the novel and the character, from the very beginning. I adored 14-year-old Finny:
She thought of going down and knocking on the door of the little brown house. Hi. I’m Finny. Is your son home? Then Earl coming to the door. Oh, hi. But if he wasn’t every bit as excited as she was, it would kill her. She would literally drop dead in his doorway, just to show him. There, now you clean up this mess. It would be embarrassing, but it wouldn’t matter because she’d be dead. p. 21*
And every character in the novel, big and small, was extremely well-developed and interesting. This is a story of relationships and the way they shape and change Finny over the years. The characters are the story. And the characters were quirky yet realistic (for the most part). From the warm and welcoming narcoleptic Mr. Henckel to the pair of sneezing morticians to the devoted yet indecisive Earl, I laughed and cried along with them. This book spans a long period of time (about 20 years). The characters changed and grew yet remained the same characters. In general, I think I prefer novels that focus on a shorter period of time so that I can get to know the characters at that point in their lives, but Kramon got this right. The Finny from Chapter 1 is very different from the Finny at the end of the novel, but I maintained that connection to her throughout the book.
The novel stays with Finny during the important times and quickly fast-forwards through the less important times in her life, but I actually liked these fast-forwarding chapters as much as the rest of the novel. They manage to sum up long periods of time in a wonderfully emotional way. I’m pretty sure there were tears during both of them.
Finny is laugh-out-loud funny woven between beautiful prose and deeply emotional experiences. There is a quotable sentence on every page. Also, how awesome is it that this is a coming-of-age novel about a girl written by a male author?
Basically, I loved this novel. I know it’s only July but I will be surprised if this fails to make my Top 10 of 2010 list and I think it can expect a pretty high position on that list. I was fortunate enough to meet Justin Kramon at BEA and I am so glad I did as I may have otherwise missed out on this wonderful book. I highly recommend it and I hope you love it as much as I did.
* Note: Quotation is based on the Advance Uncorrected Proof and may differ from the finished novel.