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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Rachel Joyce
Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter
Ellen J. Prager
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery I almost quit this book halfway through, so for it to redeem itself up to 3 stars is pretty surprising.

I wonder if this book would have worked out as well if it had been a short story or a novella instead of a full-fledged novel. The beginning 40% of the book didn't even have to be there. I mean, I can take philosophizing--at one point I was seriously considering being a philosophy major, and Peter actually was one. But I didn't find the philosophy to be all that interesting and/or original, and it seems like it was done in the place of other sorts of characterization. I read in a discussion of this book that someone thought the author was using Paloma & Renee as "mouthpieces" instead of actually developing them, and I definitely agree. I think it was a more effective technique in Paloma's case than Renee's (although maybe that's because I could identify with Paloma more), although it was effective with both of them, to a point... but it got old quickly. I understand that they are in all likelihood intentionally obnoxious but you seriously don't have to beat us around the head with that stuff. Half the book is just too much.

Other than that, though, I liked the story itself. There was some funny stuff, I enjoyed the development of the characters and their interactions. It was pretty good once they started interacting with someone besides themselves...but I'll repeat that I almost didn't make it to that point. I was set on picking up a new book but I looked through my friends' reviews one more time, which convinced me to stick it out. I thought the ending was a bit of a cop out, like maybe the author didn't know what to do with the newly changed Renee, so instead of trying to deal with it or giving people a happy ending, she just decided to kill her off since she couldn't use her to cram her ham-fisted musings down our throats. I didn't mind terribly though, after all Renee seemed happy on the way out (although that whole sequence kind of bothered me, because earlier in the book she'd said she was writing this stuff down, and generally people don't write stuff down after they've died, at least not in a way we're accustomed to).