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Book 61 Completed

October 6, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin with Rani Manicka’s The Rice Mother.

This book is a total mess. If it were fashion, it would be mom jeans, paired with high-top sneakers, a Frederick’s of Hollywood bustier, and an Ann Taylor Loft cardigan. Maybe throw a cheap Sears Betty Boop thong in there for good measure. (What am I saying? Like you can see a thong with mom jeans. Duh.)

What bothered me more about this book: The overwrought metaphors and meandering descriptions? The lack of real character development? No plot until page 400? Cliche heaped upon cliche heaped upon a big old pile of predictability? Bad writing, coupled with a complete disregard for compelling structure made this almost painful to finish at times. BUT what really bothered me…what takes the cake…what makes my blood boil more than anything is this: Manicka could have had something here. I think within this monstrosity is a kernel of a story that had potential.

There is nothing in this book that a good editor couldn’t have fixed. So, PD, vice president and executive editor at Viking Penguin, when Manicka acknowledges your “truly inspired vision” for the “editing of the manuscript”, what exactly does that mean? I can think of two things. 1. This was even more horrific when you got it and you did the best you could. or 2. Your inspired vision is the problem here. I will never be an editor, but I can think of several structural improvements that would have made this book much better. For example, I was downright CONFUSED as to the purpose of this book. Why the different POVs? Who was the “you” all these characters seemed to address? Me? Someone else? Oh, but I had to slog through 400 pages of meandering narrative (I know if you’re writing about your own family, it’s near and dear to you. Great. Write it. Then let someone else come through and run a giant red mark down over it. There were sections in this book that were not needed…were boring…were pointless. EDIT THOSE THINGS AWAY) to get to the PLOT in the LAST 20 PAGES OF THE BOOK. Had she just inverted the whole thing — start in the present, use the narrative gimmick we find out about much later to weave together the pasts — that solves the bizarre structure issue.

Really, there were two different stories here and someone should have told the author that.

Was she trying to be “creative”? Her gimmick backfired; it left me wanting and my head-spinning. A maid comes into the room for a two second cameo in one section and the next thing you know, the maid gets to write a two page chapter of her own perspective? We spend the first one-hundred pages invested in a character that disappears for the last half of the book…because the book doesn’t know what it wants to be. A family saga? A picture of the Japanese occupation? A mystery?

I craved for more information about the occupation — something substantive.

Instead, the whole story devolves from cheated child bride to crazy family soap opera — with, honestly, very little redeeming value.

Now — those individual soap operas? Some of them were quite compelling. Until you got pulled out of that story and thrown into something totally different. Sometimes you got to go back, most of the time you didn’t.

And don’t even get me started on the plot inaccuracies. (Editor…this is your job too!) This little girl gets swindled into marrying a gross old man. She arrives and keeps saying how poor she is, so she has to stay with him — she can’t leave, she can’t go back to her home country, she has NO MONEY. But she has enough money in hidden jewels to pay for the things she needs? And she can ask her uncle for a loan to pay for her husband’s debts, but not a ticket back home? Please.

Again, I think this could have been better. It needed more work. It wasn’t ready for the world yet. If this is what it turned out like in its final stages, I can’t imagine what it looked like in its fledgling state.

Sorry fans (and I know there are A LOT of you out there)…I’m glad you liked it; I really wanted to like by the end…I wanted to. I can’t recommend this.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 10, 2010 8:41 am

    Ouch. I’m really sorry. I haven’t read her myself. Thanks for giving her a chance, though. 🙂

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