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The Forrests Paperback – August 7, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Transcendent… the author’s descriptively rich prose and sense of scene drives the story on…Perkins knows how to artfully reveal her characters’ inner machinations as they cope with whatever comes their way." – Publishers Weekly, starred review

"This timelessly true tale will appeal to discerning readers of literary fiction." – Booklist

"Perkins has a remarkable ability to capture the joys and angst of each stage of life, from the stings and sorrows of rejection and loss to feelings of ineptitude, boredom, and desire to the sustaining love of family…recommended for fans of family sagas such as those by Anne Tyler and Zadie Smith." – Library Journal

About the Author

Emily Perkins was born in 1970. She is the author of Not Her Real Name, a prizewinning collection of short stories that won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and the novels Leave Before You Go, The New Girl, and Novel About My Wife, winner of the Believer Book Award.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608196771
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608196777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By zsuzsanna22 on January 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
This was a selection for my book club otherwise I would never have finished it. I absolutely hated this book! I am an American living in New Zealand so I wanted to love it, but here is an example of everything that is wrong with this story. There is no exploring of this fact, no point to why the author creates this fact about the characters. They could have been anyone from anywhere, or even just kiwis. The rest of the plot continues like this, the book jumping from one meaningless vignette to another. There are no story transitions, just one page we are here, the next page somewhere else in the lives of these completely uninteresting characters. We don't like anyone because we can't get to know anyone, and so don't care about anyone. I found most frustrating that we can never understand anyone's motives.

This is an ordinary story about ordinary people who live boring, uninteresting lives. Why should I care? Why should I waste my time reading about them? Perhaps Perkins' prose is considered "literary" but I just found it annoying. There are pages and pages of detailed descriptions of the most ordinary, every day things, as if she just needed to fill pages. For example, Perkins gives us a full page and a half of Emily making a meal in the most mind numbing detail of ordinary things: "she put the macaroni cheese in the oven and started on the birthday cake. . . . The eggs were thick shelled, hard to crack . . . She sifted flour and baking soda over the wet mixture." And so on, ad infinitum throughout the book.

Nothing really happens in this story, and even when something momentous happens, life changing events that can really alter a person's life, they are just passed over and on to the next vignette. This is not my idea of good literature, just words on a page and I really don't understand all the accolades. My advice is to skip this one,
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reading and Writing on October 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
Had no way to understand what was happening in the story line. Suddenly we are in Frank's bug ridden house with Evelyn but don't know how we all arrived there. I am all for creativity and the like, but could not find my way through this book. I see that others enjoyed it, but guess I am stuck in the classics having been an English major, my idea of good literature is very different. I'll take Kafka any day. By the time Dorothy met someone named Andrew I said goodbye to this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lizzie on July 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this to be rather a strange book, and the main character being far too self-absorbed for my liking.....and I felt mostly quite detached from the characters
However, I found the book to be really nostalgic, especially the early part, when their were so many anecdotes reminding me of the fun, the imagination, the sensory experiences and the adventures of my childhood. How simple life seemed to me then ... but it was certainly not simple for Evelyn and her siblings as they coped with the foibles of hippie parents.
The nostalgia made the book for me - without it, I would probably have been quite bored.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Edmund on June 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What I loved:

The prose. Whatever the scene, whatever the era, Perkins somehow manages to evoke the most vivid, startling and real imagery from her writing. I particularly admired her word-smithery in regards to swearing. For most authors swearing has mere shock value. Perkins has a strange talent throwing around (mostly F-bombs) in an oddly artistic fashion, matched only by her ability to sexually charge a scene.

What I didn't quite get:

Despite the above mentioned power-prose the story was hard to get into. The Forrests is populated with interesting characters and equally interesting events, however due to the style it was hard to get grounded and feel really compelled by the characters. For me personally it felt like every time I cared about was going on, the time-line moved and something else started happening.

Some have suggested this is the point of The Forrests, after all: real life moves on before we get to see the resolutions we want. Someone did warn me that as a runner up to the Booker prize, this novel might be a quite 'literary'

In totality, The Forrests is a powerful read, but only if you're looking for it. I wouldn't recommend treading here if you want (melo)drama ridden storylines with happy endings.
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Format: Paperback
The novel opens in a chaotic jumble -- a staged family film -- that dissolves into mess of wiggling children, animals, snacks, arguments. It's a bit difficult at first to make heads or tails of the story as Perkins literally plunges you into the middle of the Forrest family. Quickly, though, threads emerge: Frank Forrest, an aspiring actor, wants to leave it all and hauls his family from New York to New Zealand but fails in his theatrical endeavors, so the family, stranded now, lives off his trust fund allowance, which isn't enough to bring them back to the States. Lee, his wife, drags her four children and a neighbor's boy with her to a commune, and the story blossoms from there.

The novel follows (mostly) Dot through her life -- from her eight-year old self through to her elderly self, suffering dementia -- and the story she tells is unsurprising, conventional, slow, discomforting, confusing, and bittersweet. And, for me, that's what is so lovely and sad about it.

Honestly, from the first page, this book made me uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable, but in a good way. From the first page, I was reminded of a less physically savage, feminine Mosquito Coast -- there's no man versus nature versus his own insanity struggle for survival -- but Dot and her family, caught in the whims of their parents -- struggle in their own ways. I wanted to scream at Dot's parents, Dot herself, constantly; I wanted to hug all of them. As the story follows Dot and her siblings, I was reminded of other sparse, uncomfortable coming-of-age novels: The Virgin Suicides, Lauren Groff's Arcadia,

Perkins writing style is sparse but dreamy; I didn't race through this book but I couldn't put it down.
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