Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamman just came out this week and I think it’s going to get a lot of attention. I read it a few months ago, but only recently had a chance to discuss it a bit with someone else who’s read it. It’s a hard book to pin down. I liked it and found it to be a powerful read, but it’s most notable characteristic is, sadly, that it is really long. I’m not sure who I would recommend it too. It’s is a coming of age novel, taking a young emo woman thru her last year of high school and into a very unconventional college life. Deep emotions and profound thoughts are rampant.
I’m trying to force myself to write a short review of every book I read as I complete it. My first thoughts on Anthropolgy:
The first half (300 pages) of this novel is about Eveline Auerbach’s last years of high school. Evie is a raw, exposed soul and her observations on her life and the people in it will leave you aching for Evie to find some comfort. The second half of the book takes Evie thru her rather unconventional college years, growing up fast surrounded by young adults already making their way in the hard charging world of New York. Very effectively, the writing is staccato-like in the beginning, flowing more in the second half, but there is some choppiness that becomes distracting to the reader, like sections were cut out to control the length of this novel without logical transitions. There’s lots of wise observations that could leave a reader with highlighting writers cramp, but the story itself doesn’t move very fast and you sometimes wonder what the point is. Hamann does wrap it up fairly neatly by the end, but many readers might not last that long.
Not exactly a glowing endorsement, but I know there are people out there who are going to love this book…who are they? Jump to one of my favorite John Steinbeck passages, out of East of Eden:
…Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.
I think Anthropology will appeal to the Toms of the world, who want to be moved by a young woman’s self discovery.