Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

*Won Through a Goodreads Giveaway*

I'm honestly torn with this book. The Flamethrowers: A Novel is described as being a coming of age story for a girl named after the place of her birth, Reno. The year is 1977 and she is intent on making it in the art world she just doesn't know how. With her love of motorcycles and art, she convienently begins to date a man named Sandro Valero who's father is the king of the Valero tire and motorcycle empire. Reno is very wet behind the ears in all things life so the cast of this story are really the driving force and who make things happen.

There are a host of characters who bring moments in the book to life. They all seem to be artists, or wanna-be artists with such colorful personalities, that I almost forget that I have no idea who Reno is. I don't know for most of the novel what makes her tick, makes her happy, what her longterm ambitions are, or how she feels about the people she surrounded herself with.

I would love to say that I enjoyed every moment of this book, but it would be a complete fabrication. I actually loathed how boring it was... initially. Then I slowed down and read on and realized that the journey I'm taking with Reno should be savored and I need patience. I wanted her to take a stand once she was involved with a radical movement and to decided whether it was right or wrong. I wanted her to be angry that rape victims weren't considered victims if the rapist decided he would marry the woman. I willed her to believe in something... anything. Most of the time, I found her to just be "a girl on layaway". This is good when telling a story but not good when you expect the narrator to "come of age" eventually. Not only did I notice it, but a few of the characters noticed it too.

Rachel Kushner did a great job with the language and style of this book. The transitions between Reno's narration and Sandro's father were easy to maneuver. I only wish there was a little more background information regarding the times, but I understand that most of what I want can only be said if Reno knows it. Ultimately, this novel is well-written, although tedious at times to get through (for me at least). I may someday go back and read this book when I have more time to ponder the questions it has left me with before I move on to the next question. I recommend this book to fans of serious lit. I enjoyed this journey provided to me by Rachel Kushner.

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