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The Rest of Us: A Novel

The Rest of Us: A Novel - Jessica Lott Rhinehart was Terry’s big love, introducing her to womanhood, encouraging her inspiration but, ultimately, breaking her heart. When she reads his obituary, she’s forced to accept that her feelings remain unresolved. But the obituary was a silly mistake and a brief meeting in a department store brings a now-married Rhinehart back into her life.

Lott demonstrates a great attention to detail and an ability to write clever, educated characters. Unfortunately, they did not sparkle for me. Terry seemed naive and almost incomplete, like she couldn’t fully function without Rhinehart to consult or get approval from. Rhinehart appears smug and superior, insular and self- obsessed. And indeed, there would have been nothing wrong with this, had this been a different kind of story, or if these were supporting characters. For me, however, a story like this can only be fully appreciated if you can identify with a least one character, even if you don’t happen to like them very much.

The first time Terry showed traits that made me warm to her (slightly), like independence and self- confidence, she was using these attributes to enable an irresponsible and selfish lifestyle. In the same vein, when Rhinehart initially showed vulnerability, it was so dramatic as to be almost overdone and pitiful. I just couldn’t root for these characters.

The novel itself felt fragmented at times, lacking cohesion and flow as it moved from event to event. This was partly down to the change in tempo. The first half of the book progressed slowly and felt almost drawn out, whilst the second quickly gathered pace. The latter half of the novel was significantly more well-paced, compelling and engaging.

My concerns notwithstanding, Lott’s writing style itself provides the real redemption. Character development aside, her writing can be clever and well-structured, lacks the saccharine sentimentality that can easily mar such a novel, and evidences a confident writing style. At times when listening, Ian McEwan came to mind. That’s the real positive here. If Lott can develop the clever character development that McEwan applies, her position as a literary talent will be assured.

In short, whilst this is not without its weaknesses, it’s certainly a worthwhile read. The fluffy is truly absent and if the fuzzy can be erased in future titles, Lott will be a winner.

**I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own and I did not receive any additional compensation.**