Book review: The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll

The Marriage of SticksThe Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miranda Romanae is a successful thirtysomething woman in today’s modern word, yet she feels alone and adrift on the sea of her life. At her high school reunion she makes a shattering discovery that further undermines her already shaky sense of who she is and where she is going. When she meets the remarkable Hugh Oakley, her life takes a 180-degree turn for the better — but at what price?

When they move to a house in the country to start a new life together, the reality Miranda had once known begins to slip away. Miranda is haunted by alarming, impossible visions and strangers whom she feels certain she has known, although they are all from other times and places. As these phantom lives consume her own and begin to affect all that she knows and loves, Miranda must learn the truth to reclaim it. But sometimes the hardest truth to accept is the knowledge of who we really are. (cover blurb)

Jonathan Carroll’s novel of love and loss and memory and life is wonderfully told for the first 200 pages, with his trademark strangeness tiptoeing in bit by bit by bit. I thoroughly enjoyed Miranda’s story until I turned that one page and suddenly found myself in an entirely different novel…and one I didn’t care for at all. The break was so abrupt, so jarring, it took me completely out of the story…and the big twist as revealed in these last 70 pages was a tremendous disappointment.

Despite this major shortcoming, several of the characters Carroll has created are simply marvelous. I loved Frances, the old woman who leads Miranda to her truth. I really liked James, the high school boyfriend, until the point he turned into a whiny git and blamed Miranda for his poor choices. Hugh was interesting but not sympathetic. And given how the story turned out, I’m rather conflicted about Miranda herself…in a way that’s impossible to discuss without spoilers.

Don’t get me wrong: The Marriage of Sticks is not a bad novel, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. It’s just this particular tired plot twist is one that sets my teeth on edge, and I’m dismayed that he employed it. I suppose if this had been my first Carroll novel I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.

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