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A Reader of Fictions: Better Together - Jack Johnson

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, June 18, 2012

Better Together - Jack Johnson

The Understory

Author: Elizabeth Leiknes
Pages: 249
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Source: Bancroft Press via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
Story Easton knows the first line of every book, but never the last.

She never cries, but she fakes it beautifully.

And at night, she escapes from the failure of her own life by breaking into the homes of others, and feeling, for a short while, like a different, better person.

But one night, as an uninvited guest in someone's empty room, she discovers a story sadder than her own: a boy named Cooper Payne, whose dream of visiting the Amazon rainforest and discovering the moonflower from his favorite book, Once Upon a Moonflower, died alongside his father.

For reasons even she doesn't entirely understand, Story decides that she will help Cooper and his mother. She will make his dream come true.

When the decision is made, the lives of other broken people start to come together: Hans Turner, the door-making magician who can't shut the door on his past; Martin Baxter, the author of Cooper's beloved book, who wrote it with the daughter he misses every day; and Claire Payne, Cooper's mother, struggling to keep her son sheltered from the anger that threatens to consume her.

The Understory is a magical, moving, funny, and poignant story of failure and success; of falling apart and rebuilding; and of coincidences that never really are. Part comedy, part drama, and part fairy tale, Elizabeth Leiknes's second novel is a wonder you won't soon forget.

First Sentence: "There once was a woman named Story Easton who couldn't decide if she should kill herself, or eat a double cheeseburger."

You guys probably know that I've now instituted strict guidelines for what I'm allowed to request on NetGalley. This book is a perfect example for why this makes me sad. Under my new rules, I would not have requested this book, and I would have missed out big time. This book charmed me immediately, even though I had no expectations for it. I knew nothing about it, and the cover is incredibly lame, but something made me request it and I am so glad I did. This is the bonus of requesting ALL THE THINGS: you find books you might otherwise never have read.

First off, let me talk about the writing in The Understory. Elizabeth Leiknes has a way with words, guys. She is so clever and incredibly hilarious. So many lines in this book made me laugh out loud. Also, she swears, not constantly but to great effect. So if you're offended by swearing, this book will not be for you. If you are amused by it, you'll love it. I also loved that though her writing is quite beautiful, it also feels very natural, in the dialogue as well.

The Understory is, more than anything, about the serendipitous connections between certain people. Told in a fairy tale type manner, characters come together in a way that is either entirely coincidental or fated. Either way, everyone finds the people that they need in their lives. They come together in the perfect way to fix broken hearts, to move on in grief, to realize strength, and to grow up. I loved this. This is what I want life to be like. The subtle magic running through the story, though not actually MAGIC like in a fantasy novel, reminds me strongly of Sarah Addison Allen (who I love). Though there wasn't any legit magic, this book felt hella magical to me.

The characters in this book are amazing. Story Thyme Easton (poor girl) is delightfully and unapologetically bitchy, as well as being really messed up. She lives in the shadow of her incredibly successful mother, burdened by her name, and considers suicide. Her dream is to write honest, sarcastic greeting cards that say things like "Life Sucketh. Sorry." Dudes, I would buy cards like that. Her only comforts in life are greasy hamburgers and breaking into other people's houses to try on their shoes and sleep in their beds (like a modern Goldilocks), because she so desperately wants out of her life. She is obsessed with first lines of novels and quotes them to herself constantly.

The other characters are lovely too. Hans, the carpenter, who totally made me swoon. I don't usually go for the strong silent type but YOWZA. Also, he and Story have insane chemistry. There is some excellent romance in here, for those of you who enjoy that (and why wouldn't you?!?). Story's mother is obnoxious, but in that real mother kind of way. Cooper is one of the most adorable little moppets ever. Plus, I love that he and his mother, Claire, have a parrot that swears constantly. Amusing animal, ftw!

Guys, seriously, this book was super amazing. I loved all of it, except for the book within the book which was kind of lame. Thankfully, those bits were pretty brief. If you like magic, fairy tales, and humor, read this!

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote:
"Deep down, Story Easton knew what would happen if she attempted to off herself—she would fail It was a matter of probability. This was not a new thing, failure. She was, had always been, a failure of fairy-tale proportion. Quitting wasn’t Story’s problem. She had tried, really tried, lots of things during different stages of her life—Girl Scours, the viola, gardening, Tommy Andres from senior year American Lit—but zeero cookie sales, four broken strings, two withered azalea bushes, and one uniquely humiliating breakup later, Story still had not tasted success, and with a shriveled-up writing career as her latest disappointment, she realized no magic slippers or fairy dust was going to rescue her from her Anti-Midas Touch. No Happily Ever After was coming.
    So she had learned to find a certain comfort in failure. In addition to her own screw-ups, others’ mistakes became cozy blankets to cuddle, and she snuggled up to famous failures like most people embrace triumph.
    The Battle of Little Bighorn—a thing of beauty.
    The Bay of Pigs—delicious debacle.
    The Y2K Bug—gorgeously disappointing fuck-up.
    Geraldo’s anti-climactic Al Capone exhumation—oops!
    Jaws III—heaven on film.
    Tattooed eyeliner—eyelids everywhere, revolting. Really revolting.
    Fat-free potato chips—good Lord, makes anyone feel successful."

"Love is the answer,
At least for most of the questions in my heart
Like why are we here? And where do we go?
And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together"

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Blogger fakesteph said...

I haven't heard of this, but it sounds magical and beautiful! I'm so glad you requested all the books and read this one!

June 18, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, I'm glad. I love finding book surprises...you know, those books no one has ever heard of that are amazing!

June 18, 2012 at 12:03 PM  

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