Saturday, May 7, 2011

Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss

Paperback, 340 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Harper Paperbacks
ISBN: 0061845264 (ISBN13: 9780061845260)
3 stars 

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the very first page of this stunning novel, readers are drawn into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women who pass through Manhattan's swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love, and death.
Trish obsesses over her best friend's wedding and dramatic weight loss. Robin wants revenge after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her older sister. Anne is single, lonely, and suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Drug-addicted rock star Louise needs to dry out. Southerner turned wannabe Manhattanite Franny is envious of her neighbors' lives. Sheila wants to punish her boyfriend for returning to his wife. Ellen so desperately wants children that she insists she's pregnant to her disbelieving husband. And Morgan, the hotel manager—haunted by the memory of her dead sister—is the thread that weaves these women's lives together.

My Thoughts:
I really would have liked to give this book four stars, as I ended up liking it more than I expected to. Usually when there are multiple protagonists, and the story is told from several different perspectives, it proves to be an enriching experience overall. However, it does depend on how well the novel gels together, and in this case Alix Strauss had a great idea that wasn't executed as well as it could have been.

The main impediment in this novel is how the chapters (or protagonists) were ordered or grouped. Morgan is the character with whom we spend the most time, which is great because she is the connecting character for everyone else. However, all of her chapters save one are placed in the first half of the novel, and then the last chapter is devoted to her. I do think that beginning and end with her was an excellent way to bookend the story, but when I started into the intervening chapters between Morgan (first half) and Morgan (last chapter), I found that I had forgotten some of the more crucial details that I needed to identify how the women connected, and flipping back to locate the correlating chapter so I could jog my memory was distracting & somewhat time consuming.

I love books that are structured with multiple protagonists, but I think in this instance the story would been much more streamlined had Strauss paired the chapters dealing with the same characters together, or if not directly together, in a meaningful order that maximized the connections and allowed for the reader to have a fluent reading experience. This is my only experience with Alix Strauss so far, and I enjoyed her writing, so I am hopeful that reading other of her works will show some improved continuity in her stories.

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