Any bookworms out there have a pile of unread books? I used to have a real problem of buying a new book nearly every week. But grad school hit and I stopped reading for fun and resolved to quit that habit until I could read what I had already collected. So needless to say, I have a pile of unread books that have been calling to me for the past FIVE years. I have recently returned to the world of fiction and have had a hard time getting my brain back into that mode of reading. But it has been rewarding to look for what entertains me and what irritates me as I work on my own novel.
First up was The Noticer by Andy Andrews. Why did I grab The Noticer? Probably because it was the smallest one. I’m normally ambitious, but being a new mom and newly pregnant again, I am opting more for practical and immediate. Plus, I should probably delve into something that doesn’t compete with War and Peace in terms of length right at the start.
THE PREMISE: A town’s residents are losing heart during personal battles of troubled marriages, poverty, growing old, and failing careers. But an older nomad begins to come in to their lives, pointing out the obvious (and it really is obvious).
So, I was excited to love this book. I tried to love this book. I think I tried because it is one of my first returns to fiction. But, goodness, I couldn’t stand it from the beginning. And now that I finished it, I think I know where Andy Andrews went wrong… at least for me (because a lot of people like this book).
- Weak Storytelling
The plot felt forced. Even after reading the back of the book, I wasn’t sure why 20-something Tiffany even picked it up: “To an old drifter like Jones with a gift for seeing what others miss, there is no such thing as a dead end.” I think maybe I had hope that what Jones would see wasn’t the obvious that Andrews writes. Some lessons felt like repackaged, trendy gimmicks that have been popular at one time (i.e. people give and receive love in different ways). I was hoping for profound and was left wanting. The stories felt cliched and the advice felt too simple because Jones’ advice just magically seemed to shift the perspectives of these deeply troubled townsfolk. I didn’t buy it.
- Characters = No Care
I never cared. Simple as that. I didn’t walk away from this book at any time thinking about this book. That’s a problem for me. I want to want to return to the world I’m delving into within the pages of a story. This held no kind of magic for me with plot or character. Even Jones wasn’t endearing to me. It was strange that he just popped into people’s lives and critiqued and commented on their personal problems. It felt preachy and it felt forced. It wasn’t natural and it didn’t remind me of any genuine interactions I’ve ever heard of or experienced. I struggled (and failed) to connect.
- Self-Help Disguised as Fiction?
That brings me to my last point and I am definitely not alone in feeling this way. I haven’t read other works by Andrews (and apparently he has done well since he is a NYT’s Best Selling Author), but I don’t really care to after this one. Especially since it seems that this is just his style. I felt that Andrews should/could be a life coach or motivational speaker. [EDIT: After looking up some information about Andrews, I see he actually does those things… Ha.] Yet, he seems to be disguising a set of beliefs within hypothetical stories through the pages of a fictional work. While yes, that is one aspect of fiction (to communicate a set of beliefs about human nature and life through our characters and story), I believe that Andrews fails to provide a story that adequately captures the rawness and ugliness of life that speaks to the reader on a deeper level.