Simon & Schuster
Ms. Hen read this book because she learned about it a while ago, and it was on her library list for a long time. She finally got around to reading it, and she was glad she did. There are very few books that Ms. Hen can’t stop reading, and this is one of them. She sped through this novel because she was engrossed with reading about the characters’ strange lives.
This novel is about a woman, Denise, and her family: her relationships with her brother, her mother, and her daughter. Denise lives alone and she worries about her brother Nik, a talented musician who has never become completely successful. Nik battles with drugs and alcohol, and keeps a record of his life he calls the Chronicles, written documents that are not completely factual. Denise worries about her mother, who is slipping into dementia. Denise thinks she is losing her memory also. Her daughter, Ada, wants to make a documentary about Nik and his life.
Denise lives alone and she watches the news constantly. She becomes obsessed with tragedy when she reads and watches TV, and cries herself to sleep over the stories of children killed at school, and an Amish girl who is kidnapped in upstate New York, and many others. Denise can’t help but become distraught over these news items and she loses sleep and becomes depressed.
This novel reminded Ms. Hen of the book she had just read, DEMONOLOGY, by Rick Moody, because it seemed to her as if the characters lived in the same world as the characters in STONE ARABIA, a weird world, and one that is unpredictable and could explode at any moment. Ms. Hen read in the acknowledgements that Dana Spiotta thanked Rick Moody, and Ms. Hen imagines they must be friends and have compared notes about writing. Ms. Hen enjoyed STONE ARABIA more than the other book, however. She thinks this book has better substance and color and has more sympathetic characters.
There was something about this book that Ms. Hen loved. She loved that Denise was unstable, and her brother was talented and erratic. She loved the fact that Denise is trying to figure out what her brother wants and what he is going to do next. Denise and Nik are the only children in their family, and their father left them when they were young, and the mother worked a lot, so they were left to themselves much of the time. They were their only family in the beginning of their lives, and they knew each other so well, that they could predict what each other would do. Ms. Hen thinks this is one of the only novels she has read recently about adult siblings who have a close relationship.
Ms. Hen recommends this book because it is like real life, and it shows a family and how dysfunctional it can be, but how they can love each other. Some families don’t have a connection like the one in this novel. This novel also shows how adults can unravel and become unstable and almost lose their minds. Modern day society is not set up for sensitive people who take everything personally. Delicate people can crack if they don’t take care of themselves. Ms. Hen knows this is true, but she is a tough hen now, as tough as she can be, for a hen.