I’ve been working on this book for about two weeks. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it lacks the tight structure and plotting that I had so enjoyed from The Hours. Then again, this is a very different type of novel.
Jonathan and Bobby meet as teenagers in Cleveland and become best friends with the possibility of something more. While tragedy has plagued and mostly-destroyed each of their families, they transcend the banal into an odd, undefinable love. This continues when both men ultimately move to New York and live with Clare, a free-spirited woman. Yet, when Bobby and Clare become lovers, the balance of the perfect trio is thrown into doubt, ultimately leaving readers with this question: is it possible to love two people at once?
I’ve read three of Michael Cunningham’s novels by now (this, plus The Hours and Specimen Days), and his strength as a writer is voice. He tells this novel through four different voices, each giving a slightly different angle on the events that happen, with the potential for the reader to empathize in a broader way.
Of course, you could also easily claim that this trope is gimmicky, and I wouldn’t argue. The story itself is original, though it ends abruptly, and sometimes it meanders a bit before settling into major plot points. I’m glad I read this novel, but I’m not sure it will be a longtime favorite.