I hope that someday the pain of reading <span style="font-style:italic;">Someday This Pain will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron will be useful to me. I found this on the Horn Book Fanfare list, and picked it up with high expectations. The opening did not disappoint... our protagonist James and his sister Gillian are rich Manhattan kids whose mother is off in Las Vegas on her third honeymoon when suddenly their mother comes back. This is not like the ending of the Cat in the Hat though. Instead, it's the start of a story about James' depressed mother dealing with the fact that her marriage lasted only days until her husband snuck off with her credit cards to the casino for some gambling and lap dances. The first few chapters are great. Then the novel loses steam. This is very much like Catcher in the Rye, but James is less appealing than Holden. Enormous amounts of inner monologue seem overblown for a character with a pretty desolate emotional life, as he proves when he stalks and sexually harrasses his coworker through an online site. Similarly, entire therapy sessions are recounted in toto, which does not substitute for plot. I kept expecting the therapist to diagnose him with mild autism, Aspberger's, or a personality disorder, and frankly I was disappointed when she didn't.
I did read the book all the way through, which is probably why the above is so full of vitriol. When I do finish a book and I feel that, like this book, it has led me on a pointless wander, I get irked. Ah, the many opportunities that books give me to know more about myself as a reader... Kate the Irkable.