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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Forms of Water

The Forms of Water by Andrea Barrett

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

August 1, 2005

To start with, let me just say my expectations for this book were not very high. I fished it out of a bargain bin for a low, low price. I can honestly say I've read better books about dysfunctional families--"The Corrections" now there's a really dysfunctional family--and I've read worse. Overall, "The Forms of Water" was not life-altering but it wasn't a bad way to kill some time either.

The plot involves 80-year-old Brendan convincing his down-on-his-luck nephew Henry to go visit a parcel of land Brendan owns near a reservoir in Massachusettes. The reservoir used to be a town where Brendan's family lived until it was flooded in the '30s by developers. With no prospects, Henry is eager to survey the land in the hope of developing it when Brendan dies, which is not too far off. When Henry's sister Wiloma--who is part of some religious cult--finds out, she and her ex-husband go after Henry, followed later by Wiloma and Henry's kids. They eventually all meet at the reservoir; I won't go into the rest to avoid spoiling the ending.

Anyway, Henry and Wiloma don't get along, both are divorced and estranged from their kids. Brendan has spent most of his life in monasteries or a nursing home so he's not really connected to the family either. In the end the family is a complete mess and the journey to the reservoir does not lead anyone to really solving the problems in their lives.

Like a lot of literary novels, "The Forms of Water" ends without any resolution to the issues presented. Nobody has an epiphany or rounds the corner or anything like that. By now I'm used to these non-endings, but it doesn't mean I really enjoy them. I like things being wrapped up in some fashion just for the closure.

One problem I had with the book was there were too many characters. Some like Brendan, Henry, Wiloma, and Wendy are fairly detailed but others like Win, Lise, Waldo, and Roy are sketchy at best. I'm thinking the author could have eliminated a couple of these characters without it affecting the story at all.

I'd say "The Forms of Water" is a solid, competent novel, but it's nothing too exciting. There are a lot of other books I would read before this one, but if you're down to that point where you can't think of anything else, this is a good read.

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