Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review of Three Junes

Three Junes has been on my “to read” bookshelf for at least four years. I bought it because I am a sucker for the gold or silver stickers denoting some major book award, and Julia Glass won the National Book Award for Three Junes in 2002. I started the book soon after I bought it, and could not get into it, so it rested on my bookshelf until early summer when I decided that I needed to space out my Twlight Saga obsession with some actual literature. I did in fact start Three Junes after Twilight, but was quick to put it down when the other three books of the saga came into my possession. Miraculously, I always picked Three Junes back up in between each book for a chapter or two, and then finally finished it about a month after I had first started it.

The book is actually three distinct stories, with no overlap in characters except for one or two degrees of separation between the protagonists in each story. The first follows Paul on a guided tour to Greece following the death of his wife. The second follows Fenno, Paul’s gay bookstore owning son in New York and Scotland (the provenance of Paul and Fenno), and the third follows Fern, a widow five months pregnant from her Greek boyfriend. Each story consists of several flashbacks to periods in the character’s lives, and the present day is different for each one. Glass does an impressive job of weaving back story and present day for each character to create in-depth portraits of individuals in various stages of their lives. For Paul, it’s his ‘sunset’ years, for Fenno, it’s his mid-life/early 40’s, and for Fern, it’s her ‘grown-up’ phase, following graduate school and starting her career (and family).

Although I was not blown away by the book while I was reading it, once I finished I was happy to have given it my time (a month, in this case). Glass is a skilled writer, and she was not afraid to delve deeply into her characters’ psyches (and psychoses). None of the characters was lovable, but they were all likeable in their own ways, mostly because anyone reading the book would be able to relate to at least some of the challenges one or all of the characters were confronting. Three Junes was woven together by the themes of transition, of letting go of control, and what it means to be born and to die, whether you’re ready for it or not.


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