Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Sunday Tertulia by Lori Marie Carlson

The Sunday Tertulia was one of the many books I purchased at our outlet bookstore's Going-Out-of-Business sale, this past weekend. When I flipped through the novel, it looked pretty interesting if a bit trite: one more book of alleged "wisdom", this time from a group of fictionalized Latina women at their weekly gathering, or tertulia.

Because the author has taught Hispanic literature (as per the back cover blurb) and the central character speaks Spanish fluently, it's not surprising that the book gives one the sense that it's simply a nominally altered version of the author's life. That factor alone is not necessarily a bad thing; in the right hands, the idea may have worked.

Unfortunately, the book falls flat. The heroine, Claire, is annoying, whiny and stupid. She complains about New York City being a heartless town filled with strangers and moans about her sorry dating life throughout the novel. Since Claire is in NYC by choice and the men she dates are often insulting, rude or arrogant during their initial conversations, she appears to be a seriously dim bulb plugged into a hinky socket.

The women who invite Claire into their exclusive meetings are wealthy, shallow and dull; one never gets to know them fully as individuals and, frankly, this reader didn't care to know them any better after a certain point. Part of the problem is undoubtedly the form of the book. Each character's opinion on a topic is separated and labeled with her name, so there is never any real interaction or flowing dialogue - just one opinion, followed by another, followed by another, with occasional interjection of Claire's thoughts.

I found myself rushing to get The Sunday Tertulia over with and probably should have abandoned it altogether. The book is so unmemorable that I finished it two days ago and promptly forgot about it. Had I not set the book down in an obvious place, I might have never gotten around to reviewing it at all. Definitely one to skip.

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