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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Original 1982

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: The Original 1982

The Original 1982

Author: Lori Carson
Pages: 240
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Read: June 6-7, 2013
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Description from Goodreads:
The Original 1982 is the wise and memorable debut novel of love, regret, music and motherhood, by singer and songwriter Lori Carson of the Golden Palominos.

It's 1982, and Lisa is twenty-four years old, a waitress, an aspiring singer-songwriter, and girlfriend to a famous Latin musician. That year, she makes a decision, almost without thinking about it.

But what if what if her decision had been a different one?

In the new 1982, Lisa chooses differently. Her career takes another direction. She becomes a mother. She loves differently, yet some things remain the same.

Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become-and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.


First Sentence: "You were the first, Little Fish."

Review:
Singer and songwriter Lori Carson makes her fictional debut with The Original 1982. To be perfectly frank, I'm entirely unfamiliar with her music, and didn't recognize the name as someone famous. What drew me to the book was the parallel lives premise, which recalled Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World. Such premises call to me, because, really, who hasn't wondered about the alternate ways a life could go.

As I mentioned, I know almost nothing about Lisa Carson's life, but I feel fairly confident making the assumption that The Original 1982 is largely autobiographical. The whole novel feels very personal, and, honestly, there doesn't seem to be an effort to hide that the writing thereof is a journey for Carson. The heroine's name is Lisa Nelson, and at least one of the songs mentioned is one that appeared on one of Lisa Carson's albums, or at least a song of the same title. Like Lori, Lisa is a musician, a singer and songwriter.

In The Original 1982, Carson considers what Lisa's life might have become had she not aborted her pregnancy in 1982. Nelson faces the classic choice of career or family. In the original 1982, she chose her career, and became somewhat famous. In this imagined 1982, she keeps the baby, raising a daughter, Minnow, largely alone. Though she keeps playing, motherhood is a job in itself and she has to earn money to support them, so she doesn't have enough time to ever make it big. In one life, she is successful and lonely; in the other, unknown but with a lovely daughter.

Carson uses second person fairly effectively here, and I say that as a person who really does not enjoy a second person narrative. This is what makes the novel feel so personal: it's addressed wholly to Minnow, her Little Fish. Lisa Nelson is talking to the daughter that could have existed, and the loss of that person she never knew is visceral. Of course, the second person also has another interpretation, perhaps inadvertent. The reader, presumably a fan of Carson's music, is a child of a sort too, a brainchild born at the expense of an actual child, using the simplified logic of the novel.

The writing style, while not one that necessarily appeals to me, does have a unique cadence, no doubt influenced by her songwriting. The sentence structures are often odd and slightly offbeat. The style does very much suit the story and the character.

What might have been more effective in telling this story is the framework that most stories of this nature use (The Post-Birthday World and Pivot Point are good examples), wherein the story starts and ends in roughly the same place, and the chapters in between alternate futures. Instead, Carson largely focuses on the imagined 1982, occasionally dropping information on what she was doing in the original 1982. This felt really disorganized. Then, when her daughter reached her teen years, the imagined narrative ceased and the novel turned to the actual 2010, focusing on that for thirty pages. The alternating pattern allows for better comparison of the two, and I feel like a lot was left out of both timelines, perhaps because Carson hit what she needed for her own state of mind, but not for mine.

In the end, Carson's book is an interesting one, but not one I am the ideal audience for. At 25, I've not been through any experiences like Carson's. I've never been pregnant, so I don't live with the question of how my life might have been different were I a mother or not a mother. For those who have lived through such things, this might be a powerful read, but it did not resonate with me.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote:
"When I catch my reflection in the glass, I note again that I've become someone who's resting face falls into a mournful expression.
     As if the cabdriver can read my thoughts, he says, 'Smile! It can't be that bad.'
     This is one you hear a lot as a young woman, Minnow. Why do men think we enjoy being commanded to smile?"

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14 Comments:

Blogger Jenni @ Alluring Reads said...

hmm it's too bad that writing style wasn't a bit more polished because I really love the idea behind this. I think I would be annoyed at the random dropping of facts and things feeling a bit too random. Despite the low rating you definitely managed to speak about the book in a pretty positive light so kudos to you girl!

June 10, 2013 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I mean, the style was fine, I guess, depending on what you like, but poetic-ish styles just don't suit me most of the time. It felt sort of real, but I just didn't jive with it. The book isn't bad, but it's not really aimed at me. *shrugs* I can't quite say I liked or disliked it. *shrugs*

June 10, 2013 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

This sounds interesting. I'm not sure that I would enjoy it, but I am kind of intrigued by it. Great review chick!

June 10, 2013 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Becky LeJeune said...

I wasn't a fan of the last section of the book - the present day story. (I found I had that same reaction to another read recently, too.) I think you're right, more of an alternating pattern integrating the two stories and offering more of an opportunity for comparison would definitely have worked better.

June 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Kara_Malinczak said...

I was hoping this one would be good, but alas, I think I would have similar experiences as you. I might be 32 but I don't have a kid and don't want one. Although, I really love the name Minnow. I think I'll name the daughter I'll never have that. :D

June 10, 2013 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger C. Lee McKenzie said...

I'm curious as to why she switched the structure at the end of her book. Guess I'll have to ask.

June 10, 2013 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Soma Rostam said...

Well, this is interesting
I LIKE the idea of the author exploring both outcomes of her choice
but the writing seems a bit disorganized
GREAT review
Your reader,
Soma
http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

June 10, 2013 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Concepts like this always grab my attention.

June 10, 2013 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Me either. It just didn't really fit in. The editor probably should have tightened this up a lot. It feels like something Carson wrote in the order she needed to process things, but not so much like a novel.

June 10, 2013 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Really? You like this name? O_o

June 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Would be curious to find out what you hear.

June 10, 2013 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour, even though the book wasn't for you.

June 13, 2013 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger dplatnyc said...

Like you, I am not a fan of the second person, but I thought her use of it supported the freshness of the language and the spontaneity of a fantasy written on a sleepless night.

One quibble: Lisa doesn't choose between motherhood and career. She chooses between the very strong direction of her boyfriend to abort the baby and her desire to keep the baby. The different trajectories of her life are resultant of the decision, they do not drive it.

June 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger dplatnyc said...

Like you, I am not a fan of the second person, but I thought her use of it supported the freshness of the language and the spontaneity of a fantasy written on a sleepless night.

One quibble: Lisa doesn't choose between motherhood and career. She chooses between the very strong direction of her boyfriend to abort the baby and her desire to keep the baby. The different trajectories of her life are resultant of the decision, they do not drive it.

June 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM  

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