Monday, June 24, 2019

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Oh my, it's hard to write this one. I wanted to love this book, and at several points I nearly did. But I greatly disliked it many times as well. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I alternated between feeling it was a 2, and believing it was definitely at least a 4. I'll split the difference and go with a 3.

Based on critical reviews and enthusiastic endorsements from other authors, I was excited to get my hands on Trust Exercise. It proved a slog for roughly the first 50 pages before it picked up for me, becoming increasingly interesting with each flick of the page. But wouldn't you know it, the drudgery returned and increased to fever pitch at the start of the second section, which switched up perspective, tone and time period. I made notes along the lines of "This is so fucking boring." Then this section slowly morphed into something more intriguing, much as the first had. The author's fancy footwork and deft writing skills became ever clearer, drawing me back in.

And then. Then the third, short section. I felt thrown off balance as the book shifted time and perspective yet again, and I know this queasy, motion-sick reaction was probably the desired goal. But I didn't care for it. I didn't care about the story or character in the final chapter (actually, I didn't care much about the characters in any of the chapters). This final section served a purpose, it shed more light on past events and their aftershock. But the last chapter never exited the drudgery phase, leaving me cold.

I'm sure some saw this book as masterful writing, and it arguably was, very much so. Trust Exercise will be studied in college classrooms. So much skillful weaving. The play on how events look depending on your vantage. Different people having an alternate view, a contrary interpretation. The way Susan Choi peels back the layers of perspective and memory at times seemed fascinating and skillful. But the final product was lacking.

It was all terribly clever, but not satisfying from a reader's perspective. At least not this reader's perspective. Maybe the fancy footwork wasn't meant for the typical reader – maybe it was more for the typical book critic.

So I leave it as I started it – 3 out of 5. Dead center. Maybe you'll swing to either end of the scale, loving it or hating it. If you enjoy a book that's challenging at times, don't need a clear storyline, and enjoy form over content – give it a go. Smart money says there's a 50/50 chance you'll love it.

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  1. Clever and well written only takes a book so far!

  2. It gets loads of rave reviews, so I'm sure a lot of people love it. I honestly would've given it a 2 the way I felt by the end if I hadn't liked it so much at various points!