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July 1, 2011

The Vicious Circle Reads: Everytime We Say Goodbye by Jamie Zeppa

There were just four of us at the most recent meeting of The Vicious Circle, held in splendid east-end backyard digs last Wednesday. And one of us had absolutely nothing good to say about Jamie Zeppa’s Every Time We Say Goodbye, and nothing bad to say about it either because she couldn’t be bothered, it wasn’t even worth the effort to hate. The book had done nothing for the fiction ennui she’d been suffering from of late, and so she would not contribute much to our conversation. However, two of us were partial to the book’s beginning, the story of Grace who has a child out of wedlock and must put her life together enough to demonstrate that she’s capable of taking care of him. They liked her free spirit. And then the fourth of us confessed that she did not like Grace’s story at all, that she’d read the first part of novel afraid she’d dislike the novel entire. Because Grace’s “free spirit” was just a way to avoid investing her with actual, complicating human qualities so that she could function as a device for the plot the author had envisioned. (We had this with last month’s book too– these ethereal female characters so that authors don’t even have to bother making them human.)

We were all in agreement that the ending of the book should have been chopped right off– the cult storyline. That the tidy ending was too much, and that the precocious young protagonist was annoying. That perhaps 2/3 of the novel could have been chopped off altogether (editor, where art thou?) and what we would have ended up with is the story of the young boy, the charismatic misfit who learns he’s adopted and acts out, but perhaps he always would have. And nature vs. nurture questions that fascinate, and perhaps the only genuinely complicated character in the book, Dean Turner who’s portrayal as a 14 year old boy about to fall off the rails rang so true. (The fourth of our group kept her mouth shut). This part of the novel demonstrating that Jamie Zeppa can really write.

This is a first novel, but unlike others we’ve read, it’s not Zeppa’s first book, and she’s got years of writing experience and life experience behind her, and this shows in the best part of the book. The structure of the novel itself was faulty, but the parts that were sound are indicative of a writer whose next book could be better, of a writer who’s a member of the “one to watch” club.

And then we started in on the ribaldry again, broke out the pie, and sat there talking and talking until we were talking in the dark, and it was finally time to go home…

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