Please tell me I’m not the only person who trolls Amazon book reviews for comic value. My favorite is to look up Pulitzer winners and/or books I’ve personally loved, then head straight for the one-star reviews. Occasionally, there are one-star reviews with actual critiques. But more frequently, the reviews go something like this:
“I hate fantasy. This book sucks!”
“I wanted this book to be the complete opposite of what it was, therefore I hated it!”
Or, my personal favorites:
“Such-and-Such Author couldn’t decide what he/she wanted to write about, so they had 2 or 3 different stories going on at once and it was just TOO CONFUSING!”
“This story is all over the place. First it starts with Character A as an old man and then it goes to Character A as a young man and introduces Character B who comes in when Character A is middle-aged and why can’t they just tell the story in order?!”
Some writers are guilty of this, of course. (I’m looking at you, Wally Lamb, with your bajillion different and completely unrelated storylines in that last book!) But a lot of people seem to have the idea that if intertwining storylines are present, it’s because the author couldn’t just pick one. Or that if a book has a nonlinear storyline, it’s because the author doesn’t know how to tell a story from beginning to end.
Well, both of those ideas are wrong.
Life and literature are messy. Literary fiction generally won’t progress like a mystery you picked up at the supermarket. Storylines are fluid; sometimes books end ambiguously. Sometimes you need flashbacks to tell a clear story. How interesting would literature be without backward glances?
So, no, The Tiger’s Wife is not “the worst book ever” simply because you can’t follow it.