Wow. I’m not exactly sure where to start with this one. This was my book club’s pick for June and it is killing me that I will be out of town and unable to discuss it.
Classmates at school, Marianne and Connell operate in completely different spheres. He hangs out with the popular kids, plays sports and is raised by a single mother who is a house cleaner. Marianne is mostly a loner, unpopular at school and lives with her wealthy widowed mother and brother.
They see each other outside of school only because Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s house. When their awkward exchanges lead to an awkward sexual relationship, both struggle to figure out what they mean to each other, and eventually to the world at large.
The basic plot has been discussed by fellow Cannonballers so I don’t really need to get too deep into that. I read through the handful of CBR reviews on the book and pretty much concur with everyone else. I had the “Eleanor and Park” vibe as well while reading the book and did also find myself a wee bit preoccupied with the comparison in the early part before the characters went off to college.
Rooney’s ability to capture the painful inner dialogue of the characters is spot on. While both are definitely dealing with issues of depression, anxiety, and abuse, a lot of what they wrestle with is relatable to everyone. Rooney juxtaposes blistering self unawareness with little punches of acute understanding. She takes you on a journey over the course of young adulthood in a way that is both painful and hopeful. The honest vulnerability of her writing is what makes this novel so brilliant. The best book that I have read so far this year.