I finished this book a few days ago, but needed to think about it a little longer before posting a review. Just so you are aware, this will contain spoilers, because I honestly don’t know how to talk about it without them.
This book is a contemporary surrealist fantasy. This book is about a woman confronted with her past and forced to accept responsibility for her past wrongs. This book is about love. This book is about… vampires?
While the writing was well done and at times brilliant, I found myself disturbed by the story. In the end, it left me with more questions than answers. Miranda is a thirty-three year old rare book dealer operating out of Manhattan. When she goes back to her high school reunion, she discovers her high school boyfriend has died in an auto accident. A few weeks later, she goes to a dinner party and meets Hugh, a former business acquaintance of her high school boyfriend. They end up falling in love and moving in together in an old house in the suburbs. Once in the house, Miranda starts to get strange visions and have ghostly encounters. Eventually, the people in her visions begin to lead her on a journey to discover something about herself. In one of the very last chapters of the books, Miranda discovers that she is… a vampire?? WTF????? Okay, not in the “I vant to suk ur blooood” way, but more like a psychic vampire who takes from others endlessly without giving back. Oh, and she is immortal in the fact that her soul can be reincarnated endless times, while the humans just fade into nothing at death.
I have several problems with this book. To be fair to the author, I don’t do well with surrealist fiction. It makes me feel like I’m living in one of those dreams that keeps going on and on without connecting in on itself in any linear fashion. I call it the funhouse effect. I also have an issue with Miranda’s “selfishness.” I didn’t think she was that bad of a person. It seems if the point of the story revolves around her being selfish, we should get more of that up front. To me she seemed like a normal woman who makes mistakes like everyone else. I also didn’t understand why certain characters aged (Declan) while others didn’t (Shumda). And the big reveal at the end that she was a vampire opened up more questions without giving a feeling of satisfaction.
While I had issues with the books, I have to admit that Carroll is a brilliant writer. His comments on Irish music and his story of the ill fitting suit were wonderful and I’ll remember them always. I would say that if you like surrealist fiction, then you would love this book. I think it was just not my thing.
Overall, I give The Marriage of Sticks…
Plot – 2 bookmarks
Character Development – 2 bookmarks
Writing Quality – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 2 bookmarks
Interpretation of Vampire Lore – 1 bookmark (Could have been really cool and inventive if given more time in the book. Instead, it cropped up right at the end and wasn’t fleshed out well.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – The physical looks of the characters were not described to the point that I could get a picture of them. Here is who I ended up with based on my own thoughts. Hugh Laurie (Hugh – basically because of the name), River Phoenix (James), Hilary Swank (Miranda).