Monday, August 4, 2014

All I Love And Know by Judith Frank

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work.  But when they learn that Daniel's twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam.  When it becomes clear that Daniel's brother and sister-in-law wanted Matt and Daniel to be their children's guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship.  What is Matt's place in an extended family that does not competently accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made?  How do Daniel's complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother's death?  And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways.  How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed?  And are their limits to honesty or commitment - or love?

When I finally got around to reading this book, I read it in one sitting.  I read all 420 pages, and did not put the book down once.  I didn't get up to go to the bathroom, I didn't quench the thirst I started to feel half way through, I ignored my phone, and I told everyone to leave me alone.  And strangely, I had this reaction to a book I'm not all that in love with, and I'm not even sure I realized that until I typed it.

And now that I've let the cat out of the bag, I guess it's on me to try figure out why I was so engrossed in a book, that I didn't love.  Normally, even when I'm really enjoying a book, I don't get so engrossed that I can't put it down.  And the two most recent times before this, The Absolutist by John Boyne and Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, were books that I truly loved.  They were books I would recommend to anyone and everyone, and will reread for the rest of my life.  I'm not sure how often I would recommend All I Love and Know, and I'm really not sure if it is a book I will ever reread.  And quite frankly, I'm still not sure I can tell you why, so I think I just wasted this entire paragraph.

I think part of this issue is my somewhat conflicted view of the entire Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Like Matt and Daniel, I think what Israel has done to the Palestinians is pretty much the same as Apartheid in South Africa.  I think the idea of an entire Ethnic/Religious group, who has been subjugated by other for centuries, turning around and doing the same thing themselves, I find it puzzling and just a tad bit revolting.  It makes no sense to me.  But at the same time, I agree that Israel has every right to defend themselves against those who don't want them to exist as a nation.  But most of all, I don't have an answer.  I don't know what either side should do, though I think the fighting is taking its toll on way too many innocents.

But I think my general unease has more to do with the relationship between Matt and Daniel.  It's messy and complicated, they have a quasi open marriage, which I still do not understand, though I know it happens. And I think it's in that one little facet of their relationship, my own personal issues with it, that prevents me from loving this book.  With everything going on in their lives, with all the pain and conflict, I get why maybe turning outside the relationship for comfort would be something that could happen.  Especially when one of the partners is doing everything that he can to make it work, and the other has shut down and withdrawn so deeply into his pain, that neither one can see straight anymore. I get the need for connection in the face of pain, and I get the urge to get it anywhere you can when you are no longer getting that sense of worth from the man you love.

What I don't understand is how they allowed this to happen before the events of the book.  The openness, though maybe not occurring very often, and with a ton of rules, still went on.  They were happily in love, living together, but allowed each other to be intimate with other people.  Call me a prude, old fashioned, or naive, but I've never been able to understand relationships like that.  I try not to judge those who are in open relationships, and for the most part I don't, but I still don't get it.  And I understand it's not my place to get it, since I'm not in the relationship, but it does stop me from investing to much emotion into a fictional couple that I really wanted to love.  And I really don't understand why the author uses that openness as a vehicle for the couple to implode, or at least the proverbial last straw breaking the camel's back..

Since you can tell from the synopsis that it all works out in the end, I don't feel as if I'm spoiling anything for you, when I tell you that it does in fact have a happy ending.  And I can even go as far as saying that I'm happy it ended that way, and that I adore both Matt and Daniel.  I can even go a step further and tell you that I enjoyed the book, that I became invested in both the story and the characters, that I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Matt and Daniel. I'm even willing to admit that it's my own personal hangups that kept me from loving what I read.

And now that I'm done typing, I'm even willing to concede that maybe I loved this book more than I did at the beginning of the review.  Maybe its as simple as uttering my relationship hangups out loud, albeit in type.  Could actually admitting your issues, no matter where they come from, allow you to get over them, to not let them cloud your judgement? Maybe it is that simple, or maybe, just maybe actually sitting down to write a review actually forces you to rethink the entire process over again.  No matter the reason, I'm now willing to admit that I loved the book, and that I would highly recommend. it.  I just hope you guys don't think I'm too schizophrenic now.

I want to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews, hopefully they will be more coherent than mine.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like the book was engrossing and made you think so I'd sure give it a try.