By Julia Pierpont
Rating: 3/5 Stairs
Expected Publication: 7 July 2015
I finished this book over two weeks ago, and I’ve been waiting to review it. I’m the type that normally starts a review within a day of finishing a book – I want to get my thoughts down and my impressions before they get colored by my other books I’m reading. Not in this case. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book when I put it down. And now, over two weeks later, I’m still not sure. Some parts really worked for me, and others did not. So I’m giving it the middle-of-the-road, three stairs.
Jack has been cheating on his wife, Deb. When he ends the affair, an open cardboard box addressed to Deb shows up at their New York apartment. The only problem is that the open box is delivered to their eleven-year-old daughter Kay. The box is filled with printouts of every (very graphic) text communication Jack and his mistress have ever had, and once Kay shares the box with her older brother Simon, and eventually Deb, the family is torn apart.
Among the Ten Thousand Things is presented in four parts:
- Part One – New York, the End of May
- Part Two – That Year and Those That Followed
- Part Three – Jamestown and Out West, the Start of June
- Part Four – That Year and Those That Followed
Parts one and three are very detailed accounts of the family’s life for a span of about three weeks, in the immediate aftermath of the delivery of the cardboard box. We get into the characters, and what they are thinking and feeling. Deb’s frustration, Simon’s anger, Kay’s innocence. We see the immediate response the box has had on everyone. As the story plays out, we also learn Deb and Jack’s history, how they came to be married, and the sacrifices Deb made to become a mother.
Parts two and four are very short, but span several decades, giving the reader brief insights on the characters lives after the box. I found parts two and four to really be beautifully written, but somehow unfulfilled. Written in brief bits to show the passage of time, I was hoping for more. Especially from the children. The three weeks after the box (covered in detail in parts one and three) is not enough time to understand how they coped with their father’s mistakes, and how his mistake ultimately shapes who they become. Jack’s infidelity and the cardboard box would have affected and shaped them for years. These two, short parts give us glimpses into this process, but that is all.
The end is never a surprise. People say, Don’t tell me, Don’t spoil it, and then later they say, If only I’d known. Nights in old living rooms, on pullout couches left pushed in, light reflects against the glass where the surprises were. We thought we were living in between-time, after this and before that, but it’s the between-time that lasted.
By the end of the book I knew where the foursome had ultimately ended up. But I think it was part three which really disappointed. At the end of part two, you know if Jack and Deb made their marriage work, or if it fell apart. So I was looking for more answers in part three, why their lives went the way they did. Why did Deb ultimately make the decision she did about Jack and their marriage. And on that account I didn’t feel like I was any wiser than when I started the book.
Thanks to Penguin’s First to Read program for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.