Book 4 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 03 - 12
The Vineyard by Michael Hurley
Summary (via the book jacket)
Ten years after their college days together, three wounded and very different women reunite for a summer on the island of Martha's Vineyard. As they come to grips with the challenges and crises in their lives, their encounter with a reclusive poacher, known only as the "fisherman", threatens to change everything they believe about their world - and each other.
1 star rating. I usually have one book a year that is so bad, makes me so angry, that I vent out my review with no thought on cohesion or making sense to anyone but myself, hit "publish" without rereading it, and then move on to try to scrub my brain and pretend this never existed. This is that book.
Warning: there could be spoilers and there will definitely be language.
My notes as I was reading the book present the downward spiral...
By page 32 I was doubting if the male author had ever talked to a woman. Dude, girls do NOT think about their boobs as often as your characters do. It was weird but kind of funny at first but then I got to the part where Charlotte was committing suicide by drowning and this was her last lucid thought as she was sinking (and her dress had come off): "Charlotte's breasts now floated heavenward in hopeful anticipation of the end. She caught herself wondering if angels in heaven had perfect boobs to go along with the perfect rest of them..." Ummm, what? This was the point where I felt a little dread as I continued the book.
But then Charlotte is saved by the mysterious fisherman with obvious Jesus similarities and I had bigger problems than boobs; that was the point where I realized this was a sneaky religious book. Here's the deal...I don't read a lot of Christian fiction because it's not my taste. Knowing that, if I do happen to read one as a recommendation or for book club, I tend to be gentler in my review and try to be objective because I'm not going to blast a book for doing something I don't like (preach) when I knew going in that it was that kind of book. But when there are NO indications that would let me know ahead of time that this is a religious book and I discover it as I'm reading, all bets are off and I'm reviewing it as is. Tough shit for the author if you don't like it, next time take better care with your descriptions and you can find the correct audience.
**In hindsight as I look as these notes, it's cute that I thought my biggest problem with the book was that it was a sneaky religious book. So cute. Turns out religion was the least of my concerns so don't blow off my 1 star rating as someone who just doesn't like Christian fiction...there's plenty more on my mind than Jesus. And in the end it was not that much of a religious book either because what faithful person wants to read about a masturbating priest or a boob-grabbing Jesus? Making the audience of this book dipshits like me who were suckered in by the description and have to finish every book they start (plus, I had to know just how bad it would get and the answer surpassed my wildest dreams).**
Then it was Dory's turn to interact with the fisherman. As she approached him to buy shrimp/ask about Charlotte he pushes the straps on her dress off her shoulders so it comes off and she's standing nude in front of him. Then "the fisherman placed his hands on Dory's bare breasts and leaned over as if to kiss her cheek. With this, Dory's body dropped lifelessly to the ground." Dory is taken to the hospital and when she wakes up it turns out he told her she has breast cancer even though a mammogram said she didn't so they had a second opinion and yup, she has cancer. What in the actual fuck? WWJD? Touch her boobs!!! But don't worry about this plot point, she doesn't have any treatment and doesn't have cancer a few weeks later. Thank God she saved her boobs!!!
Then we meet a character who is stereotypically all bad: Smoke. This becomes a theme throughout the book, the good characters are all good and the "bad guys" are all bad. This also becomes the first of many side trips that were completely unnecessary. At a time when the book should've been reaching a resolution on a few of the shitstorms that had already been created, the author decided to throw in some more: Financial difficulty! Impotence! Blackmail! Positive pregnancy test! And so on...
Then it gets worse! Charlotte, having survived her suicide attempt, is seeing a priest for counseling because she's struggling over the death of her daughter (the reason she wanted to die in the first place was to be with her). The motherfucking priest is a creep with romantic feelings for her. Does the author give Charlotte any sort of realistic backbone? Nope. Instead, even though Charlotte doesn't feel the same way, "out of the odd mixture of pity and high regard for the burden of his vow of celibacy, she had permitted deep kisses and lingering hugs." WHAT? Even ignoring the fact that he's a priest, that's not a typical reaction you have to any man in that situation (and don't give me shit about damaged characters, I know all about damaged characters and she wasn't one). But as if that wasn't enough, they would pray each night and the priest "gently cupped her breasts with his hands and began to pray for the soul of the child who nursed at this bosom". So much ick...a priest taking advantage of a grieving mother. Plus, here we go again with the boobs...so much obsession with boobs!
Thank you Turner! She's the character who said everything I was thinking. She flipped the fuck out and punched the fisherman when she saw him holding Dory's boobs, she went to the priest and threatened him when she found out he was taking advantage of Charlotte, and she saved Dory from Tripp and Smoke. How was this woman rewarded? Although she ended up protecting the fisherman and truly believing in him, giving up her life to follow him around and help with his teachings, she died in the end. From breast cancer. I guess fisherman Jesus couldn't warn her in the many conversations they had or the six years she spent following him around. WWJD? Hold a grudge because she cockblocked him.
More boobs. Turner "considered her breasts to be not her strongest asset but still enough to hold up a strapless dress without spilling out of the top of it - a blessing, she surmised, of long-deferred childbirth". Sorry honey but your boobs just aren't that great, otherwise fisherman Jesus would've touched them and you wouldn't have died of breast cancer.
Then what I thought was the ending happened and it was a complete downer. As I mentioned, Turner died. But the "bad guys", including the creepy priest, had no consequences and actually made a ton of money capitalizing off the tale of the fisherman. So that sucked.
Then the actual ending happened and my head exploded. In one final disgusting moment, Charlotte is summoned by a letter from a widow. Long story short, Charlotte would use the backyard shower and the widow and her (then alive, obviously) husband were her neighbors. The husband would sneak over and peep through the bushes at Charlotte while she was showering but it's okay and not creepy because he's an ARTIST and was painting her. And somehow the painting was sold to a local bar but again, it's okay because the widow is giving Charlotte the money! So Charlotte and Dory walk into the bar and there is a large painting of Charlotte in all her full frontal nudity (can't forget to include "her tits were fabulous" when describing it!) behind the bar. Do they take it down? Nope, Dory pays Charlotte $100 because they had a bet going of who was going to age better and Dory decided it would be no contest based on how great she looked in that painting from six years ago. And then they go play with their kids. But they do take the money from the painting and open a school for girls in honor of Turner which is really nice.
THE. FUCKING. END.