Monday, May 25, 2009

Fortune's Daughter, by Alice Hoffman

Despite my insane work schedule (more intrusively, my inability to stop thinking about work), I have managed to get some reading in. The past week has exhausted me and made me crave some sense of normalcy. I feel normal when I read, so I've been reading, mostly at the expense of sleeping.

The first book I picked up and read, about a week ago, was "Fortune's Daughter," by Alice Hoffman. I didn't think much of it at first glance. The saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover" is completely correct but also impossible to follow, I've found. How does one not judge a book by its cover? Its design and color palette and author photo? Can it be done? Certainly not by me.

I wasn't much impressed with the cover of "Fortune's Daughter," nor did the title appeal to me. Sounded like it would be the story of a hooker that has a heart of gold, or some other such inane babble. Since I was in a hazy sort of mood, I just started reading without allowing myself to convince my critical side that this book was bound to be a disaster.

I was pleasantly surprised. The book, though easy to read and quick, was poignant and lovely. I empathized with both female characters and one of the male characters. (The other male character left me completely cold.) I could almost feel this book winding up my biological clock, and though it's not ticking yet, it feels like the ticking will commence shortly. Frightening thought, and a testament to how much this book impacted me emotionally.

Alice Hoffman's writing style is spare but lovely, in the way I think is similar to Katherine Dunn, but not quite as bleak or gritty. Though the subject matter and the events of "Fortune's Daughter" are not optimistic or rosy-tinted in the least, I found hope and even strength in the honest, stark way events were described.

I enjoyed this book and plan to read it again, but perhaps when I'm in a better place. With my nerves currently stretched tight and my patience wearing thin, I know that I was far more critical of Jessup (the character I hated) and that single opinion really took away a lot. I zoned out a bit when Jessup's parts of the story came up and daydreamed about a herd of miniature ponies stampeding over him (makes sense in context, I swear).

Rae, smitten with Jessup, warranted a tinge of sympathy from me because of her circumstances. But I did not appreciate or admire her loyalty to (that jerk) Jessup, and that made me dislike her. I didn't feel as much sympathy as I feel I should have. I think if I were less tired, less irritable, those characters wouldn't have gotten to me so much. Maybe.

I'll re-read this book again in July or August, once I'm somewhat rested up, and see how I feel then. My memory being what it is, I'll probably still dislike Rae and Jessup without quite knowing why, other than the vague remembrances of having guinea pigs dancing through my head while I was reading this book the first time around.