The Slippage by Ben Greenman (3 out of 5)

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you are on the outside looking in, you know how uncomfortable that can be. Conversations are started and stopped, small talk is stilted, silence filled with recriminations and unspoken accusations is trapped in a cloud of misery, well, you get the picture. Or you’ve been unfortunate enough to be caught in a situation like that at one point in your life. 

That’s what this book felt like. 

Not a harsh reprimand, that sentence above this one. I could not put down the book, Ben Greenman has a unique gift for putting you into each character’s head. Most specifically, the mind and heart of one William Day, the husband, and narrator of the story. William’s trapped in a doozy of a marriage with Louisa, his wife who likes to flee and hide rather than handle a situation as it’s occurring- or in many cases in this book, imploding. Louisa asks William to build her a house, a request that seems very odd to the reader, in the face of what’s obviously a marriage in dire need of couples counseling. William spends a good part of the book going “WTF?” but essentially, he goes along with his wife’s request. What happens- and doesn’t happen- as a result? You have to read to find out. I promise you’ll have no problem plowing through the book quickly and you will enjoy it. However, like several other hard-hitting novels I’ve recently indulged in, it’s a hard sell from the angle of “happy ever after.” 

As long as I’ve been a bookseller(13 years in October), I have long been a fan of precisely that type of book. The Slippage is one of those books. What didn’t I love? It’s hard to pinpoint, actually. The book, to me, left me that sort of uneasy aftertaste. I thought William was a fantastic character, and I felt nothing more than tacit sympathy for this poor man throughout the book. I loathe the character of Louisa. She needs to grow the fuck up and stop being a manic see-saw. Again, therapy and some anti-depressants long-term could have helped this character. Greeman does have several points in the book where he made me feel sorry for Louisa, but long-term I wanted to throw some gin in her face(flashback to Larry Hagman’s JR Ewing character on the long-running Dallas in the 80’s) and tell her to grow a pair(yes, she’s a woman, you do the anatomical math). The house, obviously, is a metaphor for a new beginning. But can building a material object save this marriage? Can William’s secrets(one reckless incident before his marriage comes back to rear its head during the marital discord. It made the character even more sympathetic to me, ironically). Visually, and since I love a great cover, well, if the cover on the galley is the actual galley, well, I would pass. it didn’t sell me on the inside. 

What did I love? Ben Greenman’s beautiful writing amidst emotional wreckage, is outstanding. I love the supporting characters- espicially Louisa’s messed up younger brother. Next to him, she appears to be Mother Teresa. Also- Greenman leaves you guessing as to what’s going to happen next. At no point in this book did I have a clue what was coming next- I love, love, love that. I also kept thinking he was going to play the “should they have a child to save the marriage” card. I won’t tell you if that happens, but the fact that as an author, he didn’t take any easy way out. The dialogue, the setting, the marriage as it plays out to its outcome, is remarkably realistic. I don’t like authors who pussy out, and Ben Greenman definitely does NOT do that with this book. I would tell anyone if you are a fan of Tawni O’Dell’s book Back Roads, you will love this book. In the end, I guess there was just an unease with me after I finished it. I like to revisit what I did and didn’t like, and I couldn’t quite shake how troubled I was after I finished the book. Not sure if that was because I thought the husband a great character and the wife a raving loon, or what, but I definitely was troubled after the fact. For that and that alone, I gave this book 3 out of 5. 

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~ by generationgbooks on March 1, 2013.

3 Responses to “The Slippage by Ben Greenman (3 out of 5)”

  1. The comment on the cover- should have said “well if the cover on the galley is the actual cover” instead of “well, if the cover on the galley is the actual galley.” Duh- G

  2. I agree with one thing about your review: I couldn’t put this book down either. Reading it was like being put under a deliberate trance– both relaxing and traumatic. I have to say from my perspective, Louisa was not the antagonist you view her to be. William is disconnected and clueless to her needs. I thought she was too smart for him. She was acting out because she was in pain–unrealized dreams can do that to a person. He was detached. He was cheating on her during the marriage! Maybe this book is the quintessential novel about the conflicting perspectives of marriage and gender. It resonated with me and I’m not sure why you give it only 3 out of 5. If it moved you like you say, it’s a powerful experience and takes all the stars. Best read so far this year and I’m placing it squarely in view on my shelf. I want to be reminded of the feelings I wrangled with: both the good and bad ones.

    • Hi Elena,

      Thank you for the opinion. I just had a rough time with Louisa. It’s one of those books that I will re-read again in a couple of months, and I’m sure my outlook will differ from this review, in which case I will come back in and post a “2nd time around read” review. You are correct in your characterization of her acting out on unrealized dreams, and pain. I just identified more with William. Whatever the reason for his disconnecting from the marriage and Louisa, there were a number of instances in which I felt that he was attempting to repair the damage he had brought to the marriage, and she just gave up. There was something missing for me in my reading of the novel- that’s why I did not give it 5 stars. It did not totally destroy my standards of a five star book- meaning, I did not think I could recommend it to any customer who came into the store. I could hand it off to someone who had read an Oprah book club book- and I feel they would enjoy it greatly. I could hand it off to book clubs- and I could see that taking off with book clubs. I could not, however, hand it off to a good portion of the demographic that makes up my bookstore clientele. A powerful experience in reading an incredibly great book, yes. 5 stars, where I felt like I can re-read it again and again and recommend it to anyone, not here. I’m not feeling it to that extent. Again, a few months from now when I go back and re-visit it, I may have a whole different feeling about it and revise my review. Overall, he’s a great writer and it’s a viable read that stands on its own.

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