Monkeys by Susan Minot

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been a huge fan of Minot, but this one didn’t touch me so deeply. It doesn’t have the sophistication of her later works, although the core of her style is clearly apparent. She does a bit of the time-shifting here that she utilized to great effect in Evening, although I did lose track of where I was a few times. That said, her skill with characterization and dialogue, using character to illustrate other characters is her strong suit. This is a family of seven children with a father who is a genial drunk and a mother who keeps everything together. The reader sees the constant balance between the various characters, the girls and the boys each constrained by social expectations as modeled by their parents. Even their rebellions fall within these parameters. Where Minot is brilliant is in how much is left unsaid. She lets the reader ask the questions that are unanswered in the text, and to her credit seems fully at ease with letting the reader draw her own conclusions. This was some of my frustration, I think; there is not a message to derive, she asks only that we empathize with this family as they are. And perhaps in this era of heavy-handed, complex and message-driven fiction, not such a bad thing at all.

View all my reviews