A memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply hearfelt story of the love that holds a family together.
I'm sensing a pattern of fascination with fictionalized/amalgomized personal tragedy by Eggers, between this, What is the What, and his (newest?) book on Katrina victims, which I am interested to read now.
The most heartwrenching scenes is the first part of the book going into very detailed slow decline of his mother's health. This description is peppered throughout the book and is at times very difficult to read if you have ever lost a loved one to an illness. At one point i had to put it down for it brought some memories i had not forgotten , but had put away hoping not to have had to bring them out again. I let them walk around for a while: in the end put them away for another day.
This is not a easy book to read. It is not so much the writing style that moves from straight dialogue to harsh and bitter insights into the writers throughts and actions. Some scenes are absolutely amazing where he starts these long coversations beating himself up and driving strange points about the story to light. the conversations occurs between him and his younger brotehr but are more him talking to himself than his younger brother. It is amazing to read about how he takes care of his little brother after the death of both of their parents from cancer in less than five weeks time. You can see how much the writer takes on but much of the time everything is from his perspective. His siblings reaction to thier deaths is never often touched upon. There are vague hints as to Toph's reactions but little of that is taken into consideration. If there is one thing i would like to have seen is how these events shaped their lives. You get glimpses of their reactions and situations but very little of their actual presence is felt in this book.
This book is a great exploration of youth in America, specifically upper middle class youth and their exploration of their ideas and contempt for society. A group of people often as not left searching for direction after coming into adulthood not quite knowing what it means to be an adult. Yet through all this exploration one of them is raising a kid. Scary!!!! Great book and realize the writer is like many people from his background and age group self centered and idealistic about almost everything.
Read it for this is a book about mourning and grief that occurs over a period of six years. Take the time read it right.
The description of his mother's end-of-life saga is difficult to read, not because it's clunky or poorly written, but because Eggers has captured the truth of dying in a painful, exquisitely beautiful way. And the relationship with the younger brother is equally well-written and beautiful. Eggers uses outrageous hyperbole to great effect, and if the reader is unsure how much of a grain of salt is required in the reading, well - that's life, isn't it? It's all relative, and what's true in Eggers's mind as he raises this child is not a lie, just as an outsider's perception is its own truth. Small, pedestrian struggles, like the desperate need for a washer/dryer are given equal weight with the bigger problems such as sister Beth keeping Toph in touch with his memories by pulling out photo albums while Eggers works harder to keep Toph distracted from the fact of his orphanhood. Eggers's parenting seems at turns irresponsible (as in the hideous weekly menu of bachelor dishes) and heartbreakingly conscious (as in his evaluation of potential girlfriends based entirely on their view of Toph and their life together).
Eggers goes all the way with his cleverness, and like all risks, some pay off, while some fall flat. An extended "transcript" of an interview to be on MTV's The Real World is used to reveal extensive background on Dave, and quickly becomes tiresome. And the disclaimer that, of course, Eggers realizes that it's a cheap literary device, doesn't excuse the tedium. I don't care how postmodern you are -- don't pull me out of the story. The list of "recipes" for disgusting bachelor food, though, was surprisingly touching and hilarious. The gimmicky ending, reeking of Joyce or Salinger, somehow worked for me. It brought the story to a satisfying close on an emotional note.
I'm not sure how to sum up this review, really. There's brilliance, but a too-clever edge that could have been edited out for a better story. Worth reading? Absolutely.
Written in (and about) his youth, A.H.W.O.S.G. captures Eggers in his most unapologetically naïve, boastful and vulnerable moments. I reads like something that was written very quickly; which apparently it was. This, in other words, is the opposite of the kind of book that might be produced by a mature author (i.e., sans the wizened magnanimity that is often the final fruit of a contemplative life). And yet, what makes it wonderful is that it eschews any comparison to such books by being confidently resolute in its own right - even obligation - to exist. Literary pretensions aside, this uncompromising sentiment at the book's core is lovely (and lasting) in itself.
One additional note: over the years Eggers' distinctive style has been a relatively easy target for parody. I find this to be one of the clearest indicators of an original voice.