Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Quirky Summer Read- Vinegar Girl

I must admit, I don't read all that much fiction, particularly secular fiction. It's not that I don't enjoy a good story for a story's sake, it's just that I have a hard enough time as it is fitting reading into my daily docket and I always have a pile of worthy non fiction I want to learn something from. So, usually, nonfiction trumps fiction in my reading repertoire. Also, I find it is very hard to be able to filter which secular novels will be "clean" and worthy of my time by simply looking at their covers alone. Don't judge a book by it's cover and all...But if I was to judge a book by it's cover, Vinegar Girl  by Ann Tyler would have won the beauty contest.

And when my favorite magazine, World chose Vinegar Girl as their novel of the year in their annual "Book" issue, I knew it was worth a read. It's a quick but insightful read that proved to be a lighthearted distraction during a heavy season for me. A retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, there are definitely plenty of nods and ties to the original but about enough modern context to be engaging enough as a story on it's own standing. A witty, though rough around the edges Kate Battista is stuck. She's stuck at her job as a preschooler teacher- where her sarcasm doesn't phase the children but their parents are a different story. She's stuck living at home with her eccentric, scientist father and boy crazy, melodramatic little sister. All the home keeping duties fall to her with little recognition or gratitude from her family. She leads a meager existence of going to work, making a nightly dinner of scientifically formulated Meat Mash, and on her weekends sporadically indulging her one joy in life- gardening (but only flowers, her small yard doesn't get the sunlight needed to grow vegetables). And it seems things will never change...

Until it does. Until her father comes home one night babbling on with a glowing report of some lab assistant he's apparently had for years and but has barely even mentioned in passing before now. And now, he can't seem to speak to Kate about hardly anything else but Pyotr, Pyotr, Pyotr. Kate finds this infinitely out of character for her self absorbed father, until she realizes that he is still looking out for himself-how to save his precious lab work from losing his very needed and gifted lab assistant who is being threatened by deportation. So he hatches what seems to him a very logical plan to marry Kate off to Pyotr and all will be made right. At first, Kate is indignant. How dare her father think so little of her to see her as property to be exchanged for a greater good? It's her life, her heart, after all. And hulking, socially awkward Pyotr seems just about the last person she wants to share those things with. But the more time she is forced to spend with him, the more freeing the idea of being "stuck" with him seems. She may even be able to tolerate him and maybe more. 

 The characters, though quirky, are endearing and entertaining and the unlikely love story that follows had me cheering more than most Hallmark movies I've watched lately. I enjoyed the gradual wearing down and smoothing out of Kate and seeing Pyotr become more possibly lovable in Kate's eyes. We even got glimpses of humanity we can relate with    in Kate's father and sister. Ann Tyler did a commendable job in taking a well known classic and crafting a fresh new spin on it. This novel was a summer treat!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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