The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard(2 out of 5)
This was started with such high hopes. I hadn’t prowled through the store in a while and just grabbed something off the shelf and decided to give it a shot. I have found plenty of great independent titles and authors by perusing our shelves(our book buyer finds great shit, no joke). I found two- this was one, the other I borrowed and will likely read it over the next couple of days. This book took me a few hours. I feel as if it were a few hours too long.
A 17 year old English girl(whose name we are never told, which doesn’t help in way of connection with the character, at least not if I’m the one reading the book) flies to Los Angeles after a phone call informing her that her long-absent mother Lily has been killed in a motorcycle accident. What The Girl walks into is nothing short of a Gatsby-style rave(this is Lily’s wake, by the way. That will give you an idea of the types of people Lily was friends with toward her end) in lieu of a respectable wake. The Girl stows away in her mom’s room in the hotel, spying on her belongings, and the husband she left behind(Richard, who plays quite a part in the ending of the book), as well as several other unidentified paramours. She has several close calls with Lily’s harem and ends up stealing a red suitcase of Lily’s and leaving with it. To make some sort of peace with her mother’s death, and maybe to get some closure? You would think, you would hope. The way I read the book, it almost seems like The Girl is looking for an adventure, and finds one, albeit her mom’s passing and the cast of characters she left behind who the girl tries to befriend, in a quest to learn who she is(as well as who Lily was). An adventure that leads to her sleeping with multiple people who also happened to have slept with her mom(the revealation to one of the men that she is wearing her mom’s knickers, well, that’s just WRONG. And GROSS). An adventure that leads her to re-read her mom’s letters and talk to various people- husband one(whom she boffs), Julie, her mom’s friend and former co-worker, Richard, the widowed husband, and David, who photographed her mom and had some sort of weird relationship/obsession with her that you feel isn’t clearly explained. An adventure that should bring her some measure of peace, or identity. I didn’t feel that The Girl did that successfully. I am STILL scratching my head at this book, hours after I finished it. I felt, I still feel, as if Stothard was trying to have The Girl grieve someone she barely knew, and in the process, learn who she was. She didn’t do this well. First of all, I would have given The Girl(my nickname for the main character, the daughter of Lily) a NAME. The Goo Goo Dolls would have told them her name. Someone needed to! Second, give the character a direct line of thought. She was all over the damn place. It’s hard to feel a lot of sympathy for The Girl. Grief over losing a parent does weird things to people, but this is taking it a bit too far; she acts like she’s on a spiritual retreat, except it’s like a form of grief therapy. Trying to get her mom’s friends, and those who were just bar aquaintances, to shed light on her mom, by acting like she thinks her mom would- it’s a very odd bit of transference. I feel more for the men that Lily had in her life and who loved her and lost her, than I do for her daughter. I’m pretty certain that’s not the direction the author was trying to take. The Girl just isn’t a very sympathetic character. When you get to the end, you’re going “What the hell was that about?”. I don’t think we ever get a clear answer on who Lily or The Girl were or are, and where the Girl is going with her life after these revelations that she believes she has unveiled. That was the whole point of the book, and it’s never achieved, at least, not in my assessment of it. That’s why I can’t, in good conscience, award this book more than two stars.
What did I like? Well, I love Anna Stothard’s writing style. It was incredibly easy to get through this book, and her style of writing reminds me of Jack Kerouac’s writing. I also liked the male characters of Richard and David. I thought their actions and explanations rang true throughout the book. Neither character wussed out. All of the male characters, despite being touched by Lily’s presence in their lives, are strong and certain in their assessments of Lily. I liked that Stothard didn’t take the easy way out with any of the book. I just wish I had liked The Girl more, because I would have liked the book more. It was just so hard to identify with her.