This is no Eden

Eden by Andrea Kleine

BOTTOM LINE: Nope.

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 10 July 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss and NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Every other weekend, Hope and Eden—backpacks, Walkmans, and homework in hand—wait for their father to pick them up, as he always does, at a strip-mall bus stop. It’s the divorce shuffle; they’re used to it. Only this weekend, he’s screwed up, forgotten, and their world will irrevocably change when a stranger lures them into his truck with a false story and smile.

Twenty years later. Hope discovers that the man who abducted them is up for parole and the sisters might be able to offer testimony to keep him in jail. There’s only one problem: Eden is nowhere to be found.

Hope sets out on a harrowing quest—from hippie communes to cities across the country, and into her own troubled past—to track down her sister. Will she find Eden in time? And what will she learn about herself along the way?”

My Thoughts: There is nothing I really enjoyed about Eden. I finished it to find out whether Hope would find her sister, but I neither enjoyed the journey nor the story’s resolution. The whole thing is too esoteric for my tastes. The writing is stark; normally I do not mind that type of writing. In this though, it only serves to highlight the philosophical discussions of which there are many. Hope is a prickly character; her tragic backstory gains your sympathy but her behavior and attitude after that push you away from wanting to care about her. I never found myself drawn into the story, which means I was never able to shut off the critical part of my brain.

The thing is that there is nothing that ruins a novel for me faster than philosophy and dialogue that reads like a textbook. I can never convince myself that people talk like that to friends outside of a classroom. Plus, I do not enjoy having such discussions passed as part of the story. In her search to find Eden, Hope discusses guilt, gender roles, adulthood, art for art’s sake, desire, fame, identity, and so much more. Every discussion had me checking to see how long it was because I wanted to know how long I would have to suffer. Readers who actually enjoy these types of conversations in novels, in which all parties sound like philosophy professors, will get much more out of Eden than I ever could.

Outside of these character development sessions where Hope makes another life discovery, nothing really happens. Most of the novel set in the present day is long sections of dialogue, either internalized or with a side character, followed by a brief section where Hope travels to another area in her search for her sister. In between those chapters are flashbacks to Hope’s memories of their abduction, how it came to pass, and what happened in her experience. It helps fill the gaps and provide a greater understanding of the hidden reasons behind some of Hope’s behavior. In my callous mind, however, this understanding does not explain all of her behavior. Between the overly lengthy discussions of ideas about which I am not interested in reading and the lack of anything major happening, I found myself thoroughly bored.

The reason I stayed with the novel is Eden. Hope’s memories of her make her out to be quite the free spirit. If Hope is the heart of the two sisters, Eden is the soul. We see her through Hope’s eyes doing whatever she wants without a care of how her behavior affects her family. She is the spark of this arcane novel, and I so desperately wanted to meet her. Unfortunately, when we do, even that is a disappointment, and I was left wondering why I bothered.

Suffice it to say, Eden is not my type of novel. I did skim the last half of it but obviously, that was not enough to improve the situation. While I never regret anything I read, there is the understanding that I could have DNFed this one or even have skipped it entirely without having any impact on my mind or soul. In fact, doing so just might have saved me some frustration at the lack of action, at the incessant philosophy, at the ridiculous-sounding dialogue, at the disappointing reunion, and pretty much every other aspect of the novel.

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