30 September 2010

The Wedding Gift, by Kathleen McKenna

To be honest, I was pulled in by the book cover.  It's haunting and spooky, and with the premise of a young bride in Oklahoma being given a stately mansion by her rich and snobby in-laws as a wedding gift, the site of a mass murder thirty-some years before, it was right up my alley.  Sadly, I just couldn't get into this book at all, and for one very specific reason.

Quick overview:  The first few pages were extracts from the news about a mass murder of an entire family (father, mother, children) which happened in 1975 in the Willet home, and the horrible crime was committed by the mother.  Another news excerpt identified that two boys in 1986, had gone to the now-abandoned home, and for whatever reason, ended up in the empty pool, falling from the tree branches above. One boy broke both his legs.  The other boy died.  The boy who survived never spoke about what happened.

Fast forward to today.  Leann is a seventeen-year-old girl, and the self-proclaimed "prettiest girl in Dalton, Oklahoma."  She's getting married to George Willet, whose family is the richest in town and owns the house that everything happened in -- and her brother was the boy who had died back in 1986.  Not the easiest of situations to be in.

What an intriguing and spooky idea.  I was excited to begin reading this, but within the first few pages I was struggling. Although a quick read, the book is told from Leann's perspective. The issue that I had with it is that not just the dialogue, but the narrative itself, is written in a very casual voice, which is fine except that one may consider it to be a very stereotypical Southern-style voice and dialect.  And not just through conversations, but throughout the entire book. Which, while I enjoy reading books set in that region, or reading character dialogue that is structured that way, I found it increasingly difficult to read a book in which every sentence is structured in this manner.  And one thing I couldn't figure out - I wasn't sure why every time a character spoke, their dialogue was always in italics?

Here's an example of the narrative:
Daddy says that they is arranged that way so's the Willets' men can keel over on the golf course and be buried two yards away in sight of the greens, and also so "that those cheap bastards only have to employ one poor groundskeeper for everything."  (p.23)
There is a ghost story underneath it all, and there is quite a bit of humor.  Unfortunately, I just don't think I was the right audience for this.  I would have preferred the casual tone to be strictly in the characters' conversations, rather than in the narrative, in order to be able to enjoy the overall humor in the book, and especially the ghost story.

I want to thank Crazy Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this book.  In no way do I want to diminish any attempt for the uniquely told story or to hurt anyone's feelings -- this is my opinion only, and I know that there are others out there who will prefer this writing style much more.

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick


  1. THanks for the review! If you weren't the right audience for this book... then unfortunately I probably won't ;)

  2. From what you've written about this book, I don't think I'll be reading it anytime soon. It sounds interesting as an idea, but the writing sounds bad. Thanks for the honest review. Oh well, on to the next read, right?

  3. Estela @ Weekly Bite -- It definitely may be something another reader may like. I feel bad, I just wasn't the right one, unfortunately.

    NadiaIt was a very interesting concept, and i'm certain this is quite the right read for another individual. I hate writing a bad review, especially when I really wanted to like it, I really did, it was just a bit of a struggle for me. And yes, on to the next one...

  4. I've read a few books lately where the dialogue is italicized in lieu of using quotation marks - the use of both seems like overkill. I think the author was trying to make the book feel more personal, but it didn't work too well.

  5. Oh I wouldn't enjoy that either. I have a hard time reading dialogue like that. It has to be broken up by proper sentences. It did sound like a good plot though!

  6. Sorry this one was so tough for you to get through, but I am glad you were honest about your thoughts. The idea seems so good, but if the whole book's like the excerpt it would be tough to get used too. Sometimes I can get used to writing like that and sometimes I can't.

  7. You write the most evocative book comments -- I always am so intrigued by what you say -- and even when it isn't your cup of tea -- and doesn't sound like mine -- I still admire how you word it all!

  8. I cannot stand funky ways to do dialogue. The old standards work for a reason. I have never finished Charlie Huston's newest book for that very reason.

  9. You saved me Natalie. Because if I'd seen this book and read the plot, I'd have been THERE. The south, spooky mansion, girl with a tained history, the whole bit. And I am glad you gave us an example of the prose because it would have driven me crazy I think. How very disappointing!

  10. bermudaonion -- It was actually italicized and in quotes, which was really bizarre. I couldn't figure it out at all.

    Amanda -- I really would like to see if it's just me, maybe I just wasn't getting it. I really need to see what others thought of it. It makes me feel horrible to write that I don't like a book... :(

    carolsnotebook -- The idea is a really good one, and I just wish I could get comfortable with it.

    Jeanie -- You are much too kind. I truly want to ensure that everyone understands that it's only my perspective though. It'd be interesting to see what others thought of it.

    pickygirl -- It was a tough go for me with this one, unfortunately. I've also heard that about Charlie Huston. I definitely don't think I could pick that one up, either.

    Sandy -- The plot really was calling to me, and I was so excited to read it. It had all the elements that I love and sounded perfect for the Halloween time. Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me. I know that there are others out there who really would like it, though.

  11. Thanks for the review. Although I'm a Southerner, I totally hate reading the dialect ad nauseum. It's just too much. The eye needs to move. You were a good sport to hang in as long as you did.

  12. I love your blog, but find it hard to respond to comments you have left me?? Do you not have that function disabled?

    Sorry--it always says "no-reply comment@ blogger.com when I try to email you after you leave me a comment?

  13. Kittie Howard -- It was a tough one for me; I'm confident it's a good fit for another reader!

    Bibliophile by the Sea -- Thanks! Quick question -- are you trying to reply back to a comment by clicking reply in your email? If so, that's probably why -- I think it might send a notification back to your email, but it's only a notification that a comment was placed. I think you actually have to return back to the blog to respond to a comment. Next time you get a notification that a comment was received, instead of clicking reply in your email, come back to the blog and then post the comment back under the comments. I think that's the case! (I'm definitely no expert, thought!). I'll check around in my settings, too!

  14. I loved this book, personally. I laughed so hard and I think while i read it, I imagined Leann writing it in her journal. though, i very much respect your opinon. I know I have read books I hated and others loved. If your interested in my review, here it is.


  15. Rebecca -- There are definitely a wide range of opinions for any one book. I appreciate you swinging by and thanks for the link to your review.

  16. I also might have been sucked in by the synopsis. I have been looking for some really spooky Halloween reads for my book club, but after reading a little more about this book, I think I would have been so distracted by the casualness and dialogue that it definitely would not have made a good read for me. I am so glad to have read your review first, before discovering this book on my own, now I know I can scratch it off the list! Great review!

  17. It sounds insulting to Southerners! I mean we don't talk like that in this day and age.

    And I saw you are from Jacksonville, FL. I am too! I lived there for the first thirty two years of my life and go back frequently!

    Buried in Books

  18. Yeah, I think that style of writing is difficult to read. It's hard when a story line is intriguing but the writing style is just too strange or difficult to follow. It's great you did an honest review though!

  19. What a bummer! The premise sounds so wonderful, but I know after reading your review that it is a not a book for me. And the italics would drive me nuts!


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