Review of I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb

Posted by in netgalley copy

Okay -- it says right there in the description of the book meghan: ghosts. There are talking ghosts in this book. You hate random additions of ghosts, or aliens, or multiple personalities, or bunny coke-orgies, and yet you requested I'll Take You There from Netgalley and this is why you cannot have nice things.

Setting aside the ghosts for a second (ghosts! really?), we have a narrative about a guy being told/shown about women. Apparently this makes it,
according to some other blurbs and reviews, a feminist novel. Can we all just stop and appreciate for a moment that a guy learning about what some women went through (anorexia, unplanned pregnancy, pregnancy complications, same-sex relationships) is somehow considered a feminist novel? Has patriarchy set the bar so low that merely having a man realize that women can have complex lives and stories is somehow groundbreaking? Why even have Felix, our protagonist, anyway? Why not cut out the ghosts and just tell the story of the women? That's the interesting part of the book, not Felix's ramblings about this-and-that, telling (and who's he talking to anyway) us that no one's going to remember Bieber in fifty years. Felix is likeable, in a sort of tolerable, rambling-great-uncle way. He seems like a nice enough guy, but why make the book about him learning about some women in his life. If I was feeling mean-spirited, I would say that the whole narrative structure is set up to reinforce that without being viewed through a masculine lens, women's lives are meaningless. But I'm not that mean-spirited. I honestly think that Lamb's framing device is ingrained, not-mean-spirited, patriarchal structures at work.

Now setting aside both ghosts and gender politics, it's a Wally Lamb book. So it's easy to read and somewhat endearing, but it's also mild pablum, and probably the most forgettable of any of Lamb's books.

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb went on sale November 24, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.