I must admit I came to it with a bad attitude. As if it weren't ghastly enough that my copy of this book has Zac Efron* on the cover, it's supposed to be "one of the most magical love stories I've ever read." Gaaah. Even worse, there's a quote from Nicholas Sparks, King of Shameless Tearjerkers, on the back. My overriding thought was, do I have to read this?
This is kind of a ghost story with all the good, spooky parts taken out. Charlie "I see dead people" St. Cloud lives and works in a cemetery so he can hang out with his ghost of a little brother (gosh, I wish I had one of those). Charlie's life has been on hold for thirteen years so he can keep his promise to Sam that he'll never leave him, and Sam has spent all those years stuck between "here" and "beyond" in order to keep his end of the bargain.
The story itself wasn't so bad, but I had trouble swallowing it--hence the gagging. I had to think for a while before I figured out the reason behind that. Sure, the book is filled with unlikely premises, but I've read and loved less realistic stories (Harry Potter springs to mind). I believe my problem was with the unrealistic characters and dialogue. (Elvis is probably cackling right now, or at least thinking, "I told you so!" He argued during Bel Ami that the "realness" of its characters was a rare thing; I agreed that the characters were very realistic, but didn't think it was so rare.) Charlie St. Cloud was filled with characters who did and said things that no real person would ever do or say. Not only that, but everyone in Charlie's town of Marblehead was undeniably quirky, and you know what they say--when everyone is quirky, no one is.
I feel bad when I don't like a book written by an author who is still living. No, that's not quite right; it isn't disliking a book that is the problem--it's writing about it here. But since I'm probably one of the only people in the world who read this book and didn't care for it, I don't feel so bad. It was just not my kind of book.
If you're wondering why, once again, I have tortured myself with a book I really didn't want to read, there are a few reasons:
1. It was for book club.
2. I didn't choose it. (Don't worry, Lydia, I won't tell anyone who did.)
3. Reading, for me, is like . . . um, yeah. Pizza. Even when it's bad it's good. (To a certain extent.)
What I did like about the book, and what I think will be fun to discuss at book club, was its interesting take on death, grieving, and the spirit world. There were three specific parts that stood out to me, realistic or not. First, Charlie's admission of what he missed most about Sam. ("The feeling that everything is all right in the world.") Second, the concept of dreamwalking. ("We can go right into people's dreams. We can hang out wherever their unconscious takes them. And we can tell them stuff.") Third, the spirits of your loved ones are reaching out to you. ("We all shine on. You just have to release your hearts, alert your senses, and pay attention . . . Notice the little things, because somebody is reaching out to you.")
If nothing else, maybe we'll tell some good ghost stories tonight.
*It's not that Zac Efron is hard to look at; it's just that he doesn't seem especially indicative of quality literature.