Reviews for July, July : A Novel
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 September 2002
"What Went Wrong," the deadpan title of one O'Brien's chapters, could be the slogan for the class of 1969, gathered in July, July for their 40th reunion. There's drinking, dancing, and groping, but the cheer is false; what's real is divorce, addiction, dashed hopes, boredom, mental illness, and failing bodies. The revelers' dialogue is witty, but their youthful contempt for any sort of spirituality has not aged well. They seem shallow and, bereft even of their good looks, irrelevant. A few have children but take no pride in them. They have no social conscience. They aren't worried about global warming. In fact, there is little of interest to say about the reunion, but thankfully, O'Brien breaks off from the festivities to flesh out individual lives. There's the lonely senior center activities director in Tucson, whose repressed lust draws her into a mawkish but effective horror story south of the border. One of O'Brien's most attractive characters steps from the pages of his now classic The Things They Carried: a Vietnam vet--and amputee--who tries to silence the voices he hears with drugs. There's the bored suburban wife who flies away for an affair and then must deal with her lover's death; and the couple on their honeymoon, who hit a lucky streak at a casino, only to discover they aren't even slightly in love. In fact, July, July is a terrific story collection, but as a novel, while it is not exactly a failure, it disappoints. Maybe that's because the mirror O'Brien holds up to these folks in their fifties reveals only narcissists. ((Reviewed September 1, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews
Library Journal Reviews 2002 June #1
The 30th reunion of Darton Hall College gives O'Brien the chance to play with a host of troubled characters. If you think you've seen this before, you're right: it was excerpted in The New Yorker and Esquire. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. #
Library Journal Reviews 2002 July #1
Three decades after their graduation from Minnesota's Darton Hall College, the class of 1969 reunites for a July weekend of remembrance and celebration. A draft dodger from Canada still holds grudges against his ex-girlfriend, who appears to be happily married, but now finds himself more fascinated by a female minister who has lost her job in disgrace; a crippled Vietnam veteran, still plagued by gruesome memories of war, discovers that he has much in common with a classmate recovering from a mastectomy; and with a little help from alcohol, two best friends rejoice in rather than despair over their recent divorces. Beset with a surprising array of characters, O'Brien's latest is every bit as haunting as his most celebrated works, Going After Cacciato and In the Lake of the Woods. While the recurring theme of Vietnam is no longer in the foreground, it is nevertheless, the driving force behind much of what befalls the characters in their past as well as their present. This forceful chronicle of the baby boom generation features the familiar elements of magical realism, mystery, and metafiction and some refreshing novelties, such as dominant female characters and a thoughtful, nonlinear configuration of chapters. A necessary purchase for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.] - Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.