Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Art of Devotion

Have we all not wished to keep forever the one person we love the most?

The secluded beaches of a sun-drenched Mediterranean island are the perfect playground for young Sebastian and Adora. Emotionally adrift from their mother, Adora shelters her sensitive older brother from the cruelties of the world. Sophie does not question her children's intense need for one another until it's too late. Her beloved son's affections belong to Adora, and when he drowns in the sea, she has no one else to blame.

Still heartbroken years later, Adora fills her emptiness with Genevieve, the precocious young daughter of her husband's business associate and his jealous wife, Miranda. Thrilled to be invited into the beautiful and enigmatic Adora's world, the child idolizes her during their summers together. Yet, as the years progress, Genevieve begins to suspect their charmed existence is nothing more than a carefully crafted illusion. Soon, she too is ensnared in a web of lies.

Stunningly told in the tragic voices of four women whose lives are fatefully entangled, The Art of Devotion is evocative and haunting, a story of deceit, jealousy, and the heartbreaking reality of love's true power.

My Take
This book is going to be the biggest hit for book clubs. I honestly don't know how to even write my reading experience. But I'll try. For you.

The story is unique because it is told in four distinct voices thus four perspectives. Each voice adding more to the story. I found myself leaning more sympathetically to each character after the chapter she wrote. And then I would change my mind as I was pulled through another voice and new information. 

The book begins with a simple story and ends with a tangle of secrets, betrayal, loves lost, gained, new understanding. The way I felt about each character at the beginning is not the way I felt about her by the end of the book.

Here they are in simplistic terms and I want so much to say more but I don't want to ruin the book for you.

Adora - She's the center of the universe. She is beautiful and tragic. As a child she arrived on the island with her brother, two years her senior. When her mother was widowed, Adora took the role as caretaker for her brother, Sebastian. She devoted herself to him with her all-consuming love. Established early in the book is that she died in 1938. Her voice comes from the diaries she keeps from the time of her brother's death at the age of 20 until her death at 38. She is unable to have children and decides she loves her husband's best friend's daughter, Genevieve whom she loves as completely as she did her brother.

Genevieve - By the age of 8 she had essentially been stolen by Adora. She spent every summer on the island until the age of 18. She begins the narration as a 20 year on the eve of her wedding. She sounds resigned and not thrilled as she might have been.

Miranda - Genevieve's mother. She bitterly laments the losses she has endured at Adora's hands. She feels victimized by her husband and Adora and manipulated by her daughter.

Sophie - Adora's and Sebastian's mother who blames Adora for Sebastian's death. She is jealous of Sebastian's affections for his sister and loathes her for being the child that lived.

It is killing me to say nothing more of the story but I don't want to ruin it for you. The symbolism is poignant. The dogs, the olive grove, the flowers, the sea. Motherhood a recurring theme, as it is a form of devotion, although can be dichotomous.

As each woman speaks, more is revealed, eventually providing the reader with completely unexpected twists and turns. The innocent may not be so innocent. Malice is also an art. And some people truly are without guile. Others are simply duped. 

This book completely ruined my dinner date with my husband tonight. I could think of little else. The more I processed it with him, the more irony or symbolism I found. I also found this is a very difficult book to explain because the story contains so many layers. Read it then explain it to you husband. Go ahead. Watch his astonished look when you try to explain the dogs. 

(They aren't really dogs, they are representative of devotion. Okay, they really are dogs but they are so much more. Now, see? It doesn't sound coherent but it makes perfect sense. Really. It does). 

The author has an incredible command of language and human capacity for love, devotion, annoyance, avoidance, malice, and just putting words to feelings I've never thought to articulate yet they resonate. Her descriptions are beautiful and heart breaking.

This is a book that will either be dearly loved or deeply irritating

Contains a Reader's Group Guide. I suggest reading the guide before beginning the book. I highly recommend reading the book for in a book club.

Want it? I have one up for grabs! Frankly, I wish I had more so we could start our own book club! I would love to hear a conversation about this book! 

We could have it at my house. I'd make petits fours. Not that I know how but it would be appropriate refreshment for our book club.

Leave a comment with your name, email address, and what you would like served at a book club.

Contest ends June 28, 2010
U.S. addresses only
No P.O. Boxes

Book provided by Sarah at Pocket Book Group for review. FTC regulations makes me say that but I still didn't have to tell you I loved it.


Samantha said...

I must confess that I first read your review on Library Thing and have been dying to contact you so that I can thank you for this wonderful review! I am so thrilled not only that you loved the book, but that you also have truly understood it as I intended it to be interpreted. I am so grateful that you took the time to read the book, but also for your brilliant insights and very kind words. Best wishes, Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

Betty: Reflections with Coffee said...

At book club, we serve refreshments relevant to the book we discuss, plus wine, beer, and water.

Sounds very interesting -- 4 different voices and a whole lot of secrets.

bmcbroom @ gmail dot com

Mystee said...

This sounds like a great book.


CountessLaurie said...

That book sounds cool!! Does it have a happy ending though? I definitely want to read it...

and now I want petit fours!!


Larsen's said...

This book sounds really good. I would definitely read it.


Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

I would love water, nuts, and raw vegetables served at a book club meeting.

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

pixie13 said...

You make this book sound incredible! Please accept my entry. Thanks!
A good fruit juice, raw veggies & some quality cheese & bread is what I would want served at a book club meeting.


Katia said...

ooo jealousy,secrets,betrayals, tragedy.. it's right up my alley. I think I'll be needing those petits fours now.
kr_moreau at doglover dot com

Books and Bane said...

Michele Powell

Pastries!!! YUM!!!

Aik said...

Apple juice, cookies, muffins, bread. Yum!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Diana D said...

I would like to serve a dip with vegetables. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway.

dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Oh my! Anything with sugar! Or anything with chocolate! I'm easy!

nfmgirl At gmail DOT com

lotus82 said...

Oh lets see...there would have to be finger sandwiches, fresh lemonade and of course brownies!!!


karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)

i would bring a cheesecake, or two :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

tabbysdesigns said...

Thanks for the chance!
Cheeseballs & crackers. And maybe those little BBQ weinies. Forgot what they're called though.... Smokies, maybe? :D
tabbylewis at hotmail dot com
I'm a GFC follwer (Tabby)

Donna said...

This sounds like an excellent book, I would love to have it. I say we serve something lady fingers....doesn't that sound fancy, of course, I don't know what a lady finger is...heeheehee!!!!


Elise said...

I love any type of dips and crackers, especially spinach and cheese! Cut up fruit. I wouldn't mind a slice of chocolate cake.
caliblue7 at gmail dot com

Jenny said...

My friends and I are starting a book club and this would be the perfect read! We're serving wine and cheese mmmmmm!

Thanks for the chance to win!

jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

Terrymac said...

Yes, I agree this would be a good book to discuss over at your house! Petit fois sounds great, and I will bring them as I love making them!

Otherwise, anything chocolate is great served at bookclubs.

terrymac2a at hotmail dot com

Ginny said...

I'd serve some sweet tea & cheese/crackers. Unless there was something specific in the book mentioned, then I'd try to go themed :)