Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Christmas Cookie Club (by Ann Pearlman)*

This book is just embarrassing. I found it while I was going through my stuff, and since I was out of audiobooks, I figured I'd listen to it. It seemed like a fluffy read: twelve women have a cookie exchange club and talk about their lives. And it definitely is brisk and fluffy. However...

First of all, in every chapter the narrative often stops dead so that the narrator can give cookie recipes (which are at least relevant, I'll give them that) or a brief history of cookie ingredients like ginger or salt. A history of cookie ingredients when you have 12 characters to juggle?

That's the main problem, the characters. 12 characters is too much; I would often forget who somebody was or what their story was. To be fair, there are a few characters that remain clear (such as Charlene). But many of them blend together. And no wonder: I counted at least six of the 12 main women who are blonde. 11 of the 12 are white (as far as I could tell) and all of them are heterosexual. And almost every single character has a problem with her love or sex life, and/or child-rearing. Just a complete lack of diversity and a really narrow view of "women's problems." With 12 women, can't one of them have a career or artistic crisis or something? Anything?

And amid the sameness there is one black character, but this brings us to another problem. The dialogue. Listening to the book on audio makes you realize how awkward the dialogue is in general. For instance, nobody would actually say a sentence like: "But you know my father. Always the salesman. Always wooing his force into a mentorship of adoration." There are tons of sentences like this. I mean "mentorship of adoration"? But of course the one African-American character, Sissy, doesn't talk like that. She says things like: "You think that be enough. But that little man get something in his mind he don't let go." That's right, she talks in an awkward "black" dialect. And she's got dreadlocks. And her son is a rapper who was in prison. No wonder Pearlman doesn't write diverse characters when this one is so embarrassing.

I do admit it was fun after a while. She would introduce another character and I'd be all, let me guess! Blonde, white, hetero, with man problems! And I was mostly right.


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