Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: The Forrests by Emily Perkins

Opening with Frank Forrest filming a family movie of his children, Dorothy, Evelyn, Michael, Ruthie and their friend Daniel, the interrupted script, unintended images, and the ultimate abandonment of the film captures the feel of the novel as a whole and sets up this slice of life series of episodic style shorts from the life of the dysfunctional Forrest family. The Forrests move to New Zealand chasing father Frank's dream of acting but he can no more break into theater in Auckland than he could in New York and the family must fall back on his rapidly disappearing trust fund to live. Thus starts this dreamy novel that follows second Forrest daughter Dorothy's life from childhood through her dementia-riddled old age.

The vignette-like chapters each freeze a moment in time as the story progresses and the Forrests age. Parents Frank and Lee are remote and consumed by their own self-centered whims. They haul their children around without reference to the damage they might do them and they never actually see what is going on in the lives of the kids. Although each of the family members is granted time on the page, Dorothy is the focus of the majority of the novel and so the reader spends the most time reading about her ultimately ordinary life and the never realized dreams she still sometimes entertains, including her lifelong love of family friend Daniel.

The writing is kaleidoscopic, filled with shimmeringly beautiful descriptions and imagery but the feel is still somehow still distant and detached. The feel is almost like a collection of photographs overlaid with a wash, like Instagram snaps. From chapter to chapter there are gaps in time that are left to the reader to fill in. Some of the gaps are quite large and some smaller, an uneven teasing thread. The characters, specifically Dorothy and Eve, can never quite overcome their family and their upbringing, remaining emotionally shattered. They cannot connect, drifting untethered in their own lives. And while the effect seems intentional it is still disorienting for the reader who also cannot quite connect with this admittedly gorgeously written but aloof and oft times dispassionate story.

For more information about Emily Perkins and the book visit her webpage. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. I had never heard of this one until I read your post. Sounds like one I might enjoy.

  2. I think you wrote a very nice review of this book, but I can tell by your description that it's not one that would appeal to me. I tend to shy away from stories that have that kind of kaleidoscopic feel.

  3. I can't imagine living my childhood with a father like Frank ... what a challenge!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one for the tour.


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