Book Corner 2022.22

by Weike Wang

In the middle, it can feel rather depressing. The first-person protagonist, who I believe remains unnamed, had horrible parents, can’t finish her PhD, and can’t commit to the boyfriend who wants to marry her. There’s a quote which I’m afraid I didn’t bookmark, but which I think I got right: “The optimist believes the glass is half full. The pessimist believes it is half empty. The chemist believes it is full, half with liquid and half with gas, both of which are probably poisonous.” That’s the protagonist’s attitude all the way through.

You think she must have redeeming qualities which are not on display, this being written in the first-person depressive. Because why does Eric stay with her? She sounds relentlessly negative. But he is devoted to her; plus, she has a very warm relationship with “the best friend”. This is like the main character of Joan Is OK – she’s an oddball but things don’t quite go where you think they’re going to. These oddballs aren’t total losses. They function and have relationships. They are just human.

I want to shout out that the author has degrees in chemistry and public health as well as an MFA. Yay for scientists writing books!

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