November 16, 2012

The Raising vs. Gone Girl

I meant to write about Laura Kasischke's The Raising right after I read it, but then didn't. I was probably busy working on my 31 21 Trips in California series

Then, for the recent "Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club" pick over at Jules' blog, I rushed out and bought a copy of Gone Girl, the hot, bestselling "It" thriller of this year.  Like many of the books that have been chosen in that online book club, it wasn't at all the sort of material I'd usually choose. (And that's a good thing; good to be lured out of  my little box.) Reading Gone Girl made me feel sort of hip and even self-consciously on-trend.  Like when I'm out in public, wearing a scarf, sipping a Starbucks, and tapping out a text message on my phone: In the back of my head, I'm thinking, "holy shit, look at me! I am SO MODERN." (Not.)

Anyway. I thought Gone Girl was a fun, fast-paced read. Fun if you like spending your time with a couple of narcissistic sociopaths, and trying to puzzle out the who/what/how of their crimes against one another.  And the movie version will probably make a lot of money at the box office in a year or two. 
It also reminded me of how much I liked The Raising, and how the The Raising is so much the better book. Not least because of Kasischke's talent as a writer.  I've read most, not all, of Kasischke's books, the first being her terrific debut novel, Suspicious River, about a young wife from an abusive childhood who becomes a prostitute while working as a receptionist at a motel. Heavy, violent stuff, but I loved it and loved the writing.

Kasischke is also an award-winning poet, and that shows in her prose, with its crystalline metaphors and evocative descriptions. (Sometimes the poetry is to the works detriment and becomes too heavy-handed and symbolic, as in her good but flawed second novel, White Bird in a Blizzard.)

The Raising also features at its center a "gone girl," a beautiful young college student and sorority sister who's been killed in violent accident, in a car driven by her boyfriend. Or is she really dead? Her grief-stricken boyfriend and others on campus seem to believe otherwise.  In fact, they're pretty adamant that they've seen her ghost.
From the back cover:
Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.
Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.
Unless she didn’t.
Because rumor has it that she’s back.
For me, The Raising was way, way more of an intense page-turner. It kept me up late, reading well past midnight. And something about the tension and paranoia of its ghost story actually made me feel a little spooked when I walked around my darkened house, while everyone else was asleep.

I know that a lot of readers were disappointed, even angered, by the way everything wrapped up at the end of Gone Girl.  And that's another valid comparison to make with The Raising...the end is something of a let-down, in the way that everything is suddenly tied together. It makes sense, but as with Gone Girl, if you're hoping for concrete punishments and karma being doled out, it ain't gonna happen.  (And hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler for either book.)

Finally --I thought it weird, if not fortuitous, that I found The Raising in the teen/young adult section of my local library.  The book was not marketed as such, I see no reference to that in any reviews, but for some reason (I suppose the college campus setting) my library stuck it over there. Luckily, I stumbled upon it. If you're looking for something a little spooky, that will have you puzzling and trying to guess just what happened, I recommend it highly. And with it's chilly setting on a snowy, picturesque college campus in Michigan, it's perfect for curling up with on these long nights as we head toward winter.

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