Warning: February's book club selection was really random. This month we read Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates. Originally published in 1971, the book was a finalist for the 1972 National Book Award and is lauded by many JCO (she's got a great name for HCG) fans as the author's greatest work. Sounds promising, right? Wrong.
The novel follows Jesse Vogel from his childhood in rural New York during the Great Depression to his marriage and career as a neurosurgeon in the late 1960s. That's the best synopsis I can offer.
Simply put, this book was really weird. Tons of crazy stuff happened, but not in a cool way, and all of the characters were incredibly strange. There wasn't one normal character who we could relate to (or who we wanted to relate to) even a little bit. Our book club discussion involved mostly questions like, "What was up with his wife?" and "Did anyone understand the ending?" The ending was rather disappointing, and even JCO herself knew that; the afterword revealed that JCO re-wrote the ending after the first edition (but the second edition wasn't any better).
It wasn't all bad, though. We agreed that the storyline was complex, the characters were extremely well developed and the scenes were packed with intricate details. We also agreed that JCO must have been on some serious drugs when she wrote this book.
Many members struggled to get through the first 30 pages of the book, but felt a sense of accomplishment after powering through the entire 512 pages. Book club member Jen gave up on it at page 30 which was literally the page before (SPOILER ALERT) the main character's dad killed the rest of the family and himself. Good call, JTS.
On a positive note, our book club meetings are becoming more and more successful each month. KB was a wonderful hostess who served delicious lasagna (which, along with a cheese plate, prompted book club member Laura to reveal her lactose intolerance. She struggles most with her love of ice cream). We're definitely learning a lot about one another each month. HAF is up in March, and the occasion will be twice as festive as a usual book club gathering - our March meeting will take place on MR's birthday.