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The Deep End of the Ocean ()

Oprah's Book Club

Okay, take Ordinary People (see Orrin's review), but have the perfect son disappear, make the surviving black sheep son a little younger, then follow his life for 9 years, but also shift the emphasis of the novel to the horrid mother.  Throw in a major lesbian character, just to lock up the Oprah endorsement, and since it is the 1990's, tack on a few media feeding frenzy elements.  Then bring the dead kid back in a totally contrived plot twist and you've pretty much got this novel.

Ms Mitchard is a good writer and the story is somewhat compelling--in particular, you sort of want to know what happened to the missing son (the solution proves pretty perfunctory) and you mildly root for the surviving son.  But, especially when the missing boy comes back, you have to ask yourself: "Wasn't he better off away from this repellent mother?"  And this is a real weakness in the book.  If you want us to feel some empathy for Beth, you can't have our first impression of her be her telling her husband, unconcerned that the boys might hear her,  that she only loves her baby daughter.    And then, when we're supposed to be feeling her pain later, you might want to drop the scene where she boinks her high school boyfriend, with its pretty clear implication that she was so set on getting into his pants at the reunion that she didn't care where Ben went.

In the end, I just disliked Beth so much that I did not care what happened to her and hoped that the whole family would escape her malignant clutches.


Grade: (C-)


Book-related and General Links:
    -REVIEW: (Gail Collins, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: (Kate Tuttle, Boston Book Review)
    -REVIEW: (David Koblick, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: (PAT H. BROESKE, Book Page)
    -Oprah Book Club: Deep End of the Ocean
    -Oprah Book Club: Author Bio
    -ARTICLE: Jackie Mitchard: Thriving in overdrive (Jacob Stockinger, Capital Times--Madison, WI)
    -INTERVIEW: (Mary Ann Grossmann, St. Paul Pioneer Planet)
    -EXCERPT: Mitchard, Jacquelyn | The Most Wanted
    -FILM: movie site