I did not finish this book. I hate it when that happens because it feels like I’ve failed at the one thing that has always been easy to me: reading and getting lost in a story. To be fair I came pretty darn close to finishing which – perhaps – makes it all the more troubling that I couldn’t force my way through the final few pages.
I liked Eat, Pray, Love but I didn’t love it. By the end of the novel it felt self-congratulatory and, frankly, if I had met the protagonist in the street I would not have wanted to make conversation with her. So maybe I was doomed to fail with this book but I thought – hey! I’ll give it a try.
My biggest issue is with our main character Alma Whitaker. After a riotously fun first few chapters, detailing the globe-sailing and rambunctious youth of Alma’s born-into-poverty-but-fated-to-swim-in-money father she is just…boring by comparison. I mean, REALLY boring. This girl studies moss for her life’s work for god’s sake. I had hoped that my love of flowers would help me to connect with the story’s main botanic themes but, alas, it was not meant to be. All the fascinating characters are either killed off, married off, or simply disappear. Every time I got my hopes up for anything even mildly exciting, Ms. Gilbert whisked them off to Tahiti in the mid-1800s, never to be heard from again.
All this to say that when the excitement and adventure for Alma finally comes to fruition (in the last 15% of the book) I’m already tired of her and have lost interest. And Alma is already 50 years old, quite an advanced age for that time period, and I can’t imagine that this is when she gets interesting. I’ll call this a case of too little, too late, and move on with my life.
Bottom line: a bit of a snoozer. Lovely descriptions of the familial estate in Pennsylvania, mentions of a dormant passion within our sterile protagonist and the introduction of some ridiculous ancillary characters are certainly worthwhile but cannot save the story as a whole.