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The end calls into question the entire premise
on January 3, 2012
I've read Chris Bohjalian before and have enjoyed his work. So when I saw that Amazon had listed this as one of the Best Books of 2011, I thought I'd give it a go during holiday break. I was immersed in the book, and couldn't put it down because I desperately wanted to see how it ended. However, when I reached the end I felt like the structure of the book just fell apart.
Now, I'm not the type of person who demands happy endings. I usually go with the ending and the plot the way the author writes it out and when finished think about what the story was trying to be and what the author might have been trying to say.
But when I reached the end of this book, I called into question entire plot points. What was the point of Chip being haunted by the ghosts of the plane crash victims? Not a minor question as that is a major plot in the book. I was willing to forgive the endless parade of herb-named women that just got silly toward the end--and maybe it was because I read the book in 2 days that it just seemed silly. I was willing to overlook as minor the fact that I would have thought an educated attorney like Emily would see through the "cult-like" group who had befriended her and at least get a second opinion (as she was willing to do with one of the herbal-psychiatrists). And the kids just fell for hanging out with a bunch of grandmotherly types who wanted to change their names and ingratiate them into their club?
I kept wondering what the time period for this book was supposed to be. There are lots of convenient contrivances inserted to try to explain why this family is so isolated: dysfunctional paternal side of the family, dead maternal side of the family, moving far away from friends and old life, the remoteness of Bethel that leads to poor cell phone service.
It just was all too much in the end.