Let Me Upgrade Ya: Better Versions of Popular Books
Featuring two fall faves.
Unless you’re living under a rock that safely shields you from all things pop culture, it’s likely you’re aware of the phenomenon that was John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars and the movie adaptation that came along with it. If you had the finger on the pulse of a more literary shade of pop culture this summer (or if you read my blog), you’re likely also aware that The Nest was dubbed “the book of summer” (although definitely not by me). This fall, I was pleased to discover some good news for all of us: regardless of whether you liked the aforementioned books or thought they could’ve done with a few improvements; I found two books that I am pleased to dub far better versions of both. I didn’t set out to read two upgrades in a row—in fact, I didn’t even realize they were upgrades until I was trying to describe them to friends and found myself calling them “a better version of The Nest” and “a less depressing version of The Fault in Our Stars,” respectively. But without further ado, read on for the big title reveals…
First, if you found The Nest readable but its characters insufferable, might I recommend The Children by Ann Leary? The Children takes place in a tony Connecticut boarding school town where rich New Yorkers and Bostonians keep lakeside summer homes. The Children is the story of Joan, whose husband, Whit Whitman, has recently died. Joan lives full-time in the family’s Connecticut home with her daughter, Charlotte, a semi-agoraphobic fake “mommy blogger” and her daughter Sally, who has moved back home temporarily during a break in employment. Joan has lived comfortably at the cottage for years, so when she finds out that Spin, one of Whit’s sons from his first marriage, has returned to the cottage with his fiancé, Laurel—a woman seemingly too good to be true. Much like The Nest, The Children is a story of family ties and inheritance drama—with a key difference. In The Children, the characters’ ridiculous, entitled natures are funny. Where The Nest’s protagonists were whiny and insufferable, The Children’s characters are entertaining and self-aware. After a bit of a reading rut, this book was an absolute breath of fresh air; I tore through it in the span of one afternoon.
Onto the second selection, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, by Anna McPartlin, which, I must admit, I purchased solely by virtue of its beautiful cover. Following my success with The Children, I was worried whatever I followed it up with might not pass muster—luckily it only took the first few sentences to allay my fears. If you read the book’s synopsis, you might assume The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is the tragic story of the last few days in the life of a 42 year-old single mother with terminal cancer, but the reality is that Rabbit’s awful circumstances simply serve as a background canvas onto which McPartlin paints the real story; and, in simplest terms, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is a story about a family. The Hayes family is a hilarious cast of characters, one that nearly anyone who enjoys a close relationship with their relatives will find somehow parallel to their own circumstances. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes had all of the sadness and realness of The Fault in Our Stars…with one major added bonus: it’s really fucking funny. Does finding the humor in such a tragic story seem implausible? Once you meet the Hayes family, you’ll understand.