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Friday, January 25, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

I waited for J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy for months. It came! It came! It came!

Barry Fairbrother keels over on his anniversary without warning. His death shocks the entire town of Pagford where Barry sits on the town council and is in the midst of quite a fight over whether or not to keep an addiction clinic up and running. Barry's death leads to some down and dirty fighting over his empty council seat while everyone deals with their own demons. People's lives are not always what they appear.

I will be upfront and say this is a bit of a weighty book, but it is pure Rowling and I loved it.

Rowling is such a whimsical writer, and what I mean by this is not that her stories are light and fluffy and bright or that her characters are imaginary, but that she writes with a flourish that I find so intriguing and lovely. She has created a large set of characters that fascinating individually and practically addicting as a set. Who knew that a man who only appears on a handful of pages could be such a commanding presence throughout the rest of the book? Barry Fairbrother is a commanding presence even in death.

Rowling takes on a vast array of characters, from a mama's boy in a frustrated marriage to a seemingly happy marriage that holds dark secrets that they may not even know; from a foreign doctor who cared deeply about the deceased to a man in love with his dead best friend's wife; from a school principal with a secret to hide to the daughter of a drug addict only trying to get by. It's an incredible mishmosh of goodness.

The author tells the story with such deftness and a with a beautiful story arc that it's hard to put the book down at times. It's funny and sad and wistful and honest, each emotion popping up like a Wackamole game--sometimes just one and sometimes they come all at once. I closed this book with a final sadness that can only be rivaled in great reading. Bravo to Rowling for producing such a lovely piece of literature.

Love Rowling, love her book. Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right:

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