Too many cooks spoil the book

When I think of the word “commencement”, I think of a beginning; a start to something fresh and new and maybe even grand. So you can imagine my surprise  confusion  chagrin utter disappointment when it took about 230 pages of my time for this book to even start.  I chose “Commencement” by J. Courtney Sullivan on a recommendation from a fellow readaholic who I will now be removing from my Christmas gift giving list.  I was told it would be a fun and easy read about college girlfriends transitioning to real life and overcoming the  jobs and distance and boys between them.  I guess that is another definition of commencement, but I’m still holding the “horrible title chooser” moniker over J. Courtney on this one.  Oh, and don’t worry, there will be a dig at her name further into this post.

I especially enjoy reading books with a heroine.  A female I can relate to.  And a great author is someone who can make any old reader connect with any old heroine, whether she’s staying at home raising a family of 4 or slaying medieval dragons in a breastplate.  (I’ve just given someone somewhere an amazing idea to write a book where the heroine performs both of these feats.  Guaranteed best seller.  Go forth and write. I may even post about you someday. You’re welcome.)  This novel had 4 heroines and every chapter was told by a different one of them.  Death by format, perhaps?  Regardless, when I start a new book I’m scouring those first few paragraphs to see who it is I’m going to have an intimate relationship with for as long as it takes me to finish its pages.  That one, not necessarily, but more often than not, main character, who, by page 57, you’re skimming through her conversations with friends because you already know how the sentence ends.  By page 134 you’re celebrating when she finally tells her boss where to shove it, and all through pages 255-282, sobbing with her as she is dumped by Mr. I Wanted It To Be Right.  I don’t have enough girly emotions to equally distribute my sentiments between four!  Nor did I find I particularly related to any one of these girls.  What do I have in common with a perfectionist with mommy issues, a southern belle turned lesbian, a feminist extremist who alternates between dreadlocks and a shaved head, and a sarcastic, non-practicing Catholic school girl with a drinking problem who aspires to be a novelist?  OK, so that last one isn’t too far off, but she probably had the least screen time of any of them so my point still stands.

The author has definitely spent a lot of time in the company of females and I don’t dare venture a guess on who out of this clique of girls she has drawn on her own experiences to create.  (She does call herself J. Courtney Sullivan after all.  It couldn’t be more obvious unless it was hyphenated.)  I just don’t think she has spent a lot of time in college.  Where on earth did she go to school that this eclectic bunch of misfits would ever form a cohesive girl band?  College is basically high school but with way more booze.  I also don’t think she spent a lot of time flushing out her story line for the novel and instead focused intently on getting down and dirty with character development.  Well, the reason for developing the character is so that we know who it is out there doing stuff.  Lady, you forgot the doing.  She did touch on a lot of women’s issues taking place all over the world that most people turn a blind eye to, but more importantly those that happen in our backyard.  And they were told through varying points of view by women living at complete different ends on the spectrum of feminism.  There is definitely a place for such serious topics but I don’t believe it to be bound by a Tiffany blue cover.  Or maybe that was the blue icing on the cake for the author to drive home a point and I’m not deep enough to get it.  Nah.

It’s time to put an end to my one week stand with “Commencement”, and in true dramatic chick lit fashion, the only way to get over one relationship is to begin, or commence, a new one.  Bring on my next victim!


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