Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eat the Document

Dana Spiotta's novel Eat the Document, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, begins with the captivating line: "It is easy for life to become unblessed." The novel follows the lives of Mary Whittaker and Bobby Desoto, radical protesters during the Vietnam War, who were forced to go underground when one of their actions went terribly wrong.

Spiotta does not follow Whittaker and Desoto day-by-day or year-by-year, but skips around between the 1970s and later decades. Unlike some novels that attempt a non-linear structure and end up reading like non-cohesive fragments, Spiotta somehow manages to keep the novel tightly wrapped. This is commendable, especially since she moves well-beyond Whittaker and Desoto to include an array of lesser, yet interesting, characters.

Although I wish I could admire a novel solely for its artistry and successful experimentation, I cannot deny that I am a reader who, above all, likes to feel a connection to the characters. This was the only thing that was lacking for me here, which may be sentimental nonsense to others.

Even with this drawback, however, I can easily recommend this novel. I honestly could not put it down, so I was pulled in without having a character attachment - something very rare for me. Another bonus is the fact that much of the storyline takes place during the intense political climate of the Vietnam era - a time period that I am incredibly fascinated by. Anything with protesters, hippies, communes, and all the rest intrigues me to no end. Sometimes I think I was born 20 years too late.


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