Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: The Raising by Laura Kasischke

I have a shelf full of unread books that I hope to read before my life concludes. I randomly pick a book and try to read it, always hoping for the best. Sometimes I just can't get into a story, and end up putting it back on the shelf unread. That almost happened with "The Raising" by Laura Kasischke.

Each time I picked up the book, I either lost interest and started some other activity or instantly fell asleep after reading just one or two pages. After carrying it around for literally months without getting past the first 50 pages, I was about to give up on it and swap it out for another unread book.

However, something told me to hang in there. The writing itself was excellent, but the beginning of the story and its characters just didn't grab me. The plot seemed straight forward enough. A popular, perfect sorority girl was killed in a car accident and her obsessive, impulsive boyfriend was being blamed. The book was so thick (461 pages) that I couldn't imagine what more could be written on the subject. I worried that it might turn into a drama -- something I don't need, because I've already got enough drama in my own life.

However, I became intrigued with the craftiness of the author when the story began jumping around in time, revealing a little bit more in each scene, introducing some new characters in such great detail that I felt I knew them personally, while leaving other characters as puzzles for the reader to piece together. What I thought was an obvious plot at first turned out to be quite unique. I found myself swept away in the story, feeling disappointed when I had to set the book down to live my own life.

About three-fourths of the way through, the plot began to feel a bit like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the reader being jerked around in all directions, not knowing if that wall ahead she's about to crash into will open up into a new room or result in the little car she's sitting in swinging away toward another door. The story definitely picked up enough steam to keep everything moving along after such a slow beginning, however somehow the supernatural aspect of it became more believable than the sociological and psychological aspects.

The ending will either impress you or frustrate you. For those readers who want everything spelled out for them like at the end of mysteries when the hero explains it all to a room full of suspects, the ending of "The Raising" will leave a lot to be desired. For those who want to let their own beliefs contribute to the story, your wish is granted.

The book has its X-rated moments, so consider the person you are buying it for if you get it to give as a gift. The characters literally study sexuality, death, and rebirth.

Having been in a couple of sororities myself at a couple of different universities, I can vouch for Kasischke's more commonplace descriptions of the rituals. I still have my black gowns and white formals from the 1980's hanging in my closet. I even hyperventilated while holding a candle during one lengthy ceremony and passed out.

I always know I enjoyed a book when I Google the author for summaries and reviews of her other works. I'll be reading more by Laura Kasischke in the future.