I've read The History of Love twice and was awed by it both times. And I'm not a re-reader. There was so much symbolism and layers of meaning that I will probably read it again some day.
So, why the warning? Tonight was my book club and everyone HATED the book. I mean they HATED it, not just dislike, but HATE. I was the one who chose the book and was supposed to conduct the discussion. The first lady that came asked me if I had read the book before suggesting it. I answered that I had and that I loved it. She said, "Really, because I hated it and everyone I've talked to hated it." Two more people straggled in after that. They had the same reaction. They said they didn't like how it went from one person to another and back and forth. One said it reminded her of the Poisonwood Bible. Then she puts her hand over her mouth and says, "Whoops, you recommended that one, too, didn't you?"
They thought it was pathetic. I talked about the idea of survival and how each character had a method to help them survive. Wasn't it interesting that a teenage girl in New York read and reread the Wilderness Survival Guide? Didn't they feel the triumph of each person's spirit? Didn't they think Leo was lovable with his quirky little ways? No, they thought he was crazy. Well, obviously he is, but he made the most of it and he had a great sense of humor. They worried about the author's personal life, thinking she must be a bit screwy to write such a weird book.
I tried to get them to discuss the idea of authenticity that ran as a theme throughout the book. I mentioned a few examples: Leo's love for Alma - was it authentic or was it built up on his part. Did she love him in return? Who knows? Why did he hold to it so tenaciously? What was Bruno's role? Was the book Leo wrote real or another fabrication of his imagination? If not real, then why was Alma named after the main character? And why was the book written in Spanish since Leo was from Poland and never went to South America?
I went to book club thinking we were going to discuss a meaningful book in a thoughtful way. Was I ever disappointed. We talked about the book for maybe 10 minutes, maybe. Then we talked about a trip to Vegas, the plot of the Spenser for Hire books, a husbands job with the park service and how he likes the Nevada Barr books. Did I say WE? One lady dominated the whole hour. That was all her stuff we talked about. It went on to include the Qwilleran books (The Cat Who . . .), the baskets they were putting together at her church, the book about a quail. Forgive me, one other lady did get a word in edgewise - she told us how she had a complete set of Louis L'Amour books (all 130) in a leather bond collection. She's starting to reread them.
Oh, my gosh! I thought I was going to die. I don't mind that nobody liked the book, but I do mind that we couldn't discuss it at book club.
Anyway, I thought I'd better issue a warning that you may not like The History of Love, especially after I raved about it earlier this month. I guess this book is NOT for everyone. If you do pick it up, keep in mind that it will be confusing at first. You will have questions. There are several different threads that will eventually work together. It's not told with one event smoothly happening after the next. It's multilayered and thought-provoking. And if you hate it, that's okay, too. Just remember that I did warn you. But I think it's completely AWESOME.