Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Published October 2017
Manhattan Beach opens with a young Anna and her beloved father in the Depression era.
We figure out early on that her father does nefarious business. He’s not the squeaky clean businessman with a steady paycheck. But 12-year-old Anna loves him regardless.
Their home is a busy one. Anna’s mother, a former Ziegfeld folly, devotes her time and energy to caring for Anna’s disabled sister, Lydia. The whole family, in fact, seems to revolve around Lydia. It’s a reality that’s too heavy for her father’s shoulders, and one day, he disappears.
We cut back in with Anna as a young woman. Now, she’s the sole breadwinner of the family and an aspiring underwater diver. She runs into Dexter Styles, a man who she had seen conversing with her father years earlier. Anna and Dexter are inexplicably drawn to one another.
And that’s where the story lost me.
While the first section of the book was a promising start, it didn’t deliver.
Manhattan Beach is not a bad book, but it meanders. Getting through this book became a challenge, not because of difficult subject matter, but because it didn’t hold my interest.
I hear A Visit From the Goon Squad is a much better offering from Egan, one that won 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Obviously, the author is no slouch. She and her books have earned a good deal of respect.
I hesitate in posting reviews with fewer than three stars. I include this one not to publicly shame the author, but to throw in my two cents on a book that’s received a lot of acclaim and see if I’m missing something. Is there hidden meaning I overlooked? A satisfying payoff? I’m willing to admit that the missing element is not within the story itself, but rather, is me.
It is beautifully written. For me, the storyline itself is just not compelling enough to care about.