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Time Capsule of Love: The Twoweeks by Larry Duberstein

The Twoweeks by Larry Duberstein is written artfully, almost archly, in onion-like layers. The beginning and ending form the outer layer, which wraps around the book; the beginning makes a lot more sense after you’ve read to the end.
At the beginning, readers have no idea who Jake & Cecily, Hetty, Iris etc. are except that they’re adult children driving together with their own children through the snow to spend time with the extended family in Vermont during Christmas week, 2008. And just when readers have gleaned something about these travelers from their banter in the car, they drop completely out of the narrative (except Jake and Hetty as children) until their brief reappearance at the very end. Cal and Lara – the parents, the real main characters – take over the story.
Cal and Lara’s reminiscences about and parsing of events before, during, and after the experimental two weeks they spent together over three decades ago (each married to someone else at the time) form the second layer of the book. Journal pages recording Lara’s memories about each day of “the Twoweeks,” as they called it, which were stored and forgotten for decades, and only just unearthed from a dusty box in the barn form the innermost layer of the book, form the center of the narrative.
The Twoweeks is written in experimental style, almost more like a play than a novel. We seem to be expected to be completely familiar with Cal and Lara’s current situation, although the novel doesn’t concern itself much with that. Readers listen to Cal (an actor) and Lara (a poet) correct and contradict each other’s memories of the Twoweeks –that shared time outside of normal life – as they read (we along with them) in the present, pages that present Lara’s perspective at the time. It’s a love story of sorts, but The Twoweeks is actually a pretty unsentimental dissection of what turned out, to everyone’s surprise, to be a grand passion, although it does gloss over the pain the actual divorces must have inflicted. The divorces are long in the past; everyone has survived and moved on.
So what, exactly, did I think of The Twoweeks? After I got over being annoyed with the author for not developing his characters in the traditional, novelistic way, it grew on me! I went from seeing Cal as self-centered, clownish, and full of himself to seeing him as a flawed but well-meaning person, basically mirroring Lara as she goes from seeing Cal as someone to get out of her system and forget to recognizing him as (if she believed in such a thing) her soulmate. By the end of their Twoweeks, I was wishing them both the best.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of The Twoweeks through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. (In this case, calling it the “Late” Reviewer program would be more appropriate. Sorry, LibraryThing!)

The Twoweeks
Dubersteien, Larry
The Permanent Press
November 2011

The Things We Do for Love: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Audio)

Audiobook Review — In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, love isn’t a drug; it’s a disease. In this near-future novel in the New England-y setting of Portland, Maine, love and all other strong emotions become a thing of the past once you turn 18. That’s when you undergo the operation known as “the procedure” that modifies your brain and cures you of all passion or any real memory of passions you once felt, allowing you to sail calmly from high school into an arranged marriage and career or, possibly, for the young women, motherhood.
As the soon-to-turn-18 narrator, Lena Haloway, has been told throughout her education, this is for the good of society — the new normal for all the pockets of civilization remaining in the world that was overrun by war, poverty, and the disease. The procedure makes it possible for government authorities to maintain the safety and structure of the enclosed society, to protect the isolated Portland citizens from the fugitives who rebelled against the procedure and escaped — the “Invalids” — who are out there in the Wilds beyond the electric fence and the armed guards, Lena suspects, but are not acknowledged by the authorities.
Just before the fateful summer after graduation when Lena gradually comes to understand that everything she’s been taught may not be true, she meets Alex, a mysterious, slightly older boy who is cured, and therefore, safe, but still seems to affect Lena in a strange and unfamiliar way. Modest, unassuming Lena realizes far later than the reader that Alex likes her (not her beautiful, rich friend Hana) but, by then, she has almost completely succumbed to the disease.
Underneath the dystopian overlay, this is a teen love story. Girl meets boy and the whole world turns upside down. The danger of Lena and Alex’s forbidden summer romance is real, however, with the punishment a lot worse than being grounded for a month, so after a slow dip in the middle, the tension in the story builds nicely as the date for Lena’s procedure gets closer. The ending leaves plenty of questions unanswered for the sequel, Pandemonium, coming out in March 2012.
Listening to Delirium, you’re never going to forget that you’re reading a young adult book aimed squarely at young female readers (and their moms), but if that’s what you’re in the mood for, it’s a good audiobook choice. Narrator Sarah Drew does a great job with the voices of the teens Lena (unsure but brave), Hana (carelessly confident), and Alex (husky/drawling/ironic) and with the adult voices. Some listeners may find Lena’s voice a bit gushy or overemotional, but over all, Sarah Drew’s narration conveys the joy and grief that Lena naturally feels but tries to repress, having been told by teachers and parents for so long that it’s not good to feel them. The adult voices, in contrast, are unemotional, suitable to a society where family ties are formed of duty rather than love.
Delirium may be available as a free audio download through Overdrive at your public library. Listen to an audio sample here.
Other opinions on the audio edition of Delirium (all mostly good):
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Good Books and Good Wine
Hooked to Books
Super Librarian

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