Friday, November 18, 2011

Fiction: Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne

Publisher: Random House
Date: January 3, 2012 (UK: May 2011)
Format: ARC
Acquired: from GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 320
Reading time: four days

ARC blurb: Brother and sister Kate and Albert Riley are not like the other kids in their corner of South Wales. Hom is a back-to-nature commune that, after twenty years of self-sufficiency, is rapidly disintegrating. Sixteen-year-old Kate's chosen method of dealing: insisting her parents let her attend the village school, where she promptly begins dating a "meathead" whose family drives an SUV. In her absence, eleven-year-old Albert falls under the spell of an outlandish new visitor who fills his head with strange notions of the impending end of the world. His mother Freya's recourse is to hide away in a mud yurt she builds in the woods. And then there is Don: father of the family, founder of the commune, and maker of elaborate speeches. Faced with the task of rescuing his son from apocalyptic visions, his daughter from suburbia's clutches, and his wife from her very apparent desire to leave him, Don decides his only way to save the world he's created throw the biggest party of his life.

My review: Did I love the entire aspect of a novel centered around a commune? Most certainly. Did Joe Dunthorne carry out such an aspect rather well? Yes. Was I absolutely gripped into the plot? As soon as I started reading!

Dunthorne's novel provides an interesting setting for what's basically a combination coming-of-age and middle-age-crisis tale. Though I couldn't identify much personally with breakaway Kate, maturing Albert, in-control Don, or tired Freya, I could easily see where most of their actions and feelings were coming from, and I was quickly drawn into their stories. Dunthorne's writing and characters are captivating, though I must admit I didn't find most of his attempts at humor all that hilarious. Most of the novel is concerned with the gradual breaking apart of the Riley family and the community, not the party advertised in the blurb. Not that I minded this at all; by the time mentions of the party were first made, I thought, "Party? What party? The story's going swimmingly without the promised party!" Really, the party is my one issue with Wild Abandon. Don and the commune's reasons for it were not very well explained or developed, and I thought the last 1/4 of the book, which was a coverage of the "rave," did not live up to the excellence of the rest of the novel. I also feel like I missed some of the main points of the ending. I would have loved to see how the community re-flowered (and recuperated) from their massive all-night celebration, but alas, Dunthorne does not continue the story that far. Oh, well. The coming-of-age and other pivotal times of individual identity development were done wonderfully à la Nunez's also rather odd Salvation City (only even better), Wild Abandon is one of my favorite reads this year, and I'm seriously considering joining a commune after college.

Maturity Factor: language and sexual content

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