I’ve found reading while stuck at home amidst a global health crisis to be very difficult. For weeks now I could barely focus on a book for more than a few minutes (which is why I skipped a Reading List for March). But I was finally able to flip through two titles…
- The House of Deep Water (Jeni McFarland)
- Patsy (Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn)
I read The House of Deep Water over several weeks and considered abandoning it almost every time I picked it up. I kept sticking with it because I assumed my difficulty focusing was to blame for my intolerance. Unfortunately, I’ve concurred the story itself is at fault, with too many characters and too much plot. I don’t say that lightly because I think it’s a serious accusation to say that an author packed too much into one book. But I struggled to keep track (and make sense) of the story’s various narratives. I also disliked that there was not a consistent point-of-view: Some chapters focused on one sub-plot through third-person POV, while others were told through first-person POV. I couldn’t identify a pattern for this (for example, that the first-person POV sections revolved around one specific character), so the apparent randomness bothered me. As a result, it felt like an unfinished draft in which the author hadn’t yet decided which character was primarily central to the story and instead sloppily alternated between all of their perspectives. Ultimately this book challenged me to think seriously about why it missed the mark, but that is its only redeeming quality. I would not recommend this book.
Even though I try not to approach a new book with high expectations, I couldn’t help myself with Patsy. I loved Dennis-Benn’s first book Here Comes the Sun and hoped I would enjoy her second as much. I’m satisfied to report that I savored every chapter, and credit its compelling storyline for helping me to focus for long periods of time again (I wrote about my difficulty reading during quarantine on the blog). This writer captures human yearning and heartache in beautiful prose, and I will continue to rave about and look forward to her work.
I’m still finding it hard to read book-length material in general, but I’m being more forgiving with myself about it. I love to read, and will always love it. Eventually COVID-19 will be behind us, it will be safe for my community to stop sheltering-in-place, and I’ll discover plenty more books.