1.19.2012

Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery


“Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, is the love of my life.” Shortly before his wedding, the unnamed hero of this uncommon romance is visited by a man who claims to be his future self and ominously admonishes him that he must not marry the love of his life, Q. At first the protagonist doubts this stranger, but in time he becomes convinced of the authenticity of the warning and leaves his fiancée. The resulting void in his life is impossible to fill. One after the other, future selves arrive urging him to marry someone else, divorce, attend law school, leave law school, travel, join a running club, stop running, study the guitar, the cello, Proust, Buddhism, and opera, and eliminate gluten from his diet. The only constants in this madcap quest for personal improvement are his love for his New York City home and for the irresistible Q.A unique literary talent, Evan Mandery turns the classic story of transcendent love on its head, with an ending that will melt even the darkest heart.

I can't remember where I first read about this novel, but the premise really grabbed me. I'm generally a sucker for time travel and this one sounded unique. Unfortunately, the premise was more captivating than the novel as a whole. The book goes from interesting to obnoxious as our unnamed narrator eventually encounters a dozen or so of his future selves, each telling him to pursue one thing, and the next telling him it won't work, instead he should do something equally as odd. This goes on for three hundred pages and by the end it just feels trite.

Overall, the novel seems to convey the idea that no matter what path you take in life, you will get shit on eventually. It may be true that one path will lead to more happiness and satisfaction than the other, but you will undeniably encounter some level of discontent regardless.
You still don't understand do you? There is no certain path to fame or happiness. The best you can hope for is to attempt to understand the mystery or existence and attain some measure of inner peace.
The book could easily be edited down to 250 pages or so (from 385) removing superfluous conversations that serve as metaphors for time and destiny. In addition, if an author is going to use time travel as a plot device, I think he or she should also include some sort of explanation as to how this time travel works. Audrey Niffeneger attibuted it to a genetic mutation, Stephen King detailed a storeroom portal that takes you back to the same day in 1958 each time you enter it. But in Q, we have a brief dialog that really just glazes over the subject all together, explaining one doesn't need to understand how something works in order to draw from its benefits. I don't need a detailed account of the science behind said time travel, but give a girl something to work with. For instance, do you age while you travel back in time? How long does it take to travel? Is it instantaneous? The fact that Mandery didn't include any nuts or bolts relating to time travel made the majority of the plot seem unauthentic.

Finally, for an ending that boasts it will warm even the coldest of hearts, it really felt lackluster. I was expecting a tsunami of emotions, and I got the tiniest of splashes. I consider myself a pretty warm-hearted person and I am moved by stories fairly easily. This one just missed the mark.

Publisher: Harper, 2011

14 comments:

  1. I've been looking forward to this review ever since I saw you gave it 1 star on Goodreads. Sometimes a good pan is cathartic, right? Will definitely be skipping this trainwreck.

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  2. Blarrrg. I keep thinking the cover looks chicklitty, but the premise sounds good. Meh. Sorry this one didn't work so well for you, Brenna. I think many of the same issues would bug me as well.

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    1. The cover does look chicklitty! But it sounded oh so good. I wouldn't say it was chitlit, but it wasn't good.

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  3. I've been curious about this premise but was worried I might feel the way you did about it. The lack of explanation and the overdoing other parts would probably bother me a lot!

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    1. Yes I'd avoid this one if I were you :)

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  4. Hmmm... I really like the premise of this (mainly because it reminds me of this one episode of Buffy, damn I'm cultured!) but oh no, it sounds sucky! Your hopes for it and then disappointment reminded me of how I felt about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake- an interesting idea that could go so many places, but then just doesn't. Damn.

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    1. I definitely agree with Laura on The Particular Sadness sentiment. Damn... I was thinking this one was going to be so good. Thanks for the honest review! Big time bummer.

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    2. It kind of was a bummer. I had high hopes for this one. I'll be sure to skip The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

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  5. I'm sorry if I was the one that recommended this and it was so disappointing for you. I really did like it though. I thought it was playful and I didn't mind at all that I didn't like the narrator. Hope your next read is better for you!

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    1. I don't think you recommended it... I think I read about it on a list somewhere of under the radar fiction. I think. Anyhow, I'm glad you liked it more than me!

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  6. I really enjoyed this book and found the end to be incredibly moving and profound. Different strokes for different folks...

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    1. Absolutely. One man's trash is another man's treasure :)

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