Sunday, April 12, 2009

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C. J. Box

I hated this book. 

With a passion. 

I hate the fact that my mother told me to read this book. When I asked her about it she said, "I never said you would like it, I said it would be interesting to discuss."

Box is a good writer. The plot is sound. But I hated the plot. Why would someone want to read a book like this? Why would someone want to write a book like this?

So, the obvious first question is, what is this painful plot? An infertile couple have adopted a baby through an open adoption. They met the 15 year old who was pregnant and signed away rights to the baby. When the child is 9 months old the couple is contacted with information that the father never signed away his rights to the baby and the grandfather is now claiming he will come pick up the baby in three weeks - hence the title. The story takes place in the 21 days during which the couple tries everything they can to keep their daughter.

As I read it I thought back to a comment in another book I read recently. Maybe I just don't like male authors. The emotionality is different between men and women. This book is not the emotional plight of a mother losing her child. But I don't think that is it. There are plenty of male authors that I like - a lot of science fiction is heavily male-dominated. I do think this book would have been written very differently had the plot been handed to a woman - much less bloodshed and violence for one thing. Much more internal emotional debate on the other. But that's really not what made me dislike the story.

When I read a book, I want to care about the characters. There is not a single character in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye that I can like. Even the baby is portrayed in such a cardboard way that she I have no sympathy for her plight. And the mother is wooden and unrealistic to me. Other reviews I have read of Box's book is that it is honest and realistic because the good guys are "real" and not perfect. Maybe that's true, but I find myself loathing them and their choices as much as I loathe the bad guys. I don't feel as though Box has set up a scenario in which I can empathize with any of the choices the actors make. When all is said and done, I finished the book because I was curious how Box would untangle all of his plot twists. But I didn't walk away from the book relieved at the outcome. I didn't feel that he had done a good job completing the story. I wasn't glad to see that the bad guys had lost. I just didn't care about anyone in the book.

I just didn't like it.


Pam said...

When I finished reading Three Weeks I felt that adoption should be relooked at. Frequently, I see couples with children they have obviously adopted from another race, and I think this book while exagerated may point out why. The adoption process and outcome are not as comfortable and successful as one might hope. I have to wonder if Box knows a couple who adopted a child and incountered a problem. I was unable to attend the signing so do not know the story.

A Gwen Nelson said...

I agree that this book forces you to reexamine issues of adoption in the United States. Box does set up a lot of questions that would be interesting to discuss with a group of people. But I just can't get over my dislike of the characters to want to recommend this to anyone.