Official Review: The Truth About Parallel Lines

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Latest Review: The Truth About Parallel Lines by Jill D. Block
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Official Review: The Truth About Parallel Lines

Post by jwalker73 » 10 Aug 2018, 12:57

[Following is an official review of "The Truth About Parallel Lines" by Jill D. Block.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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According to projective geometry, a pair of lines will always intersect at some stage; even parallel lines will intersect at infinity.

The Truth About Parallel Lines by Jill D. Block is a novel that falls into the Other Fiction genre. It follows the story of three very different women who, despite living separate lives, find their paths frequently intersect. While each of these protagonists have issues, desires and dreams, the choices they make, and the ways they handle their ‘excess baggage’, are unique.

The story begins in June 1981. Jenna and her two best friends, Beth and Kristen, have cut class to have their first legal drink together since they all share the same birthday. During this outing, they discuss the prom and their plans for the following year. Both Beth and Kristen have steady boyfriends and Jenna, in comparison, feels her friends have outgrown her. Desperate to appear more mature, Jenna fabricates a story and tells them she is having an affair with the father of the girl she babysits. Totally shocked, her friends ask for more detail. Jenna then provides a brief history outlining the factual events from 1977 to the present day, while interweaving her imaginary relationship into the story at the same time.

This opening chapter proves to be an effective way of introducing the reader to many of the characters they will encounter during the remainder of the novel. Jenna speaks of Joanne, her mother, who remains very bitter about her broken marriage and seems unable to move forward in life. In contrast, Jenna’s father, Andrew, has already moved on and is currently in a relationship with Deidre. Young Chloe is the girl Jenna regularly babysits and, during the past four years, a special bond has developed between the pair. Finally, there is John and Mara, Chloe’s parents. Mara tends to be a somewhat overbearing and protective mother, whereas John appears to be more relaxed. Over time, Jenna finds herself becoming increasingly drawn to John.

Following this clever overview of the family dynamics, Chapter Two begins – and the real story starts. The book, from here on in, predominantly follows the lives of Jenna, Deidre and Chloe, and spans from 1981 until 2012 (or 2015 if you include Jenna’s closing blog entry). Each chapter is clearly titled, providing the reader with immediate knowledge about which character the story is about to revolve around. Since Jenna is the common link in all the relationships, narration involving her is told in the first-person perspective. Chapters focussing on the other characters are narrated in the third-person perspective.

The remainder of the book follows the various relationships these three women have with both the significant people in their lives and each other. Like parallel lines, most of the time these relationships travel side by side, with varying distances between them. Occasionally, however, these paths cross.

Overall, I really enjoyed the concept of the story and the array of issues it touched on. I particularly liked the way it demonstrated how one individual’s decisions or choices can have a subtle ripple effect on the lives of others.

I did, however, have considerable difficulty with keeping track of who was who. There were so many names to remember and, while they all had some relevance to the storyline, at times I felt the number of people involved was excessive. Just trying to remember the immediate family members of the three protagonists was challenging enough, without the addition of friends, partners’ family members, an ex-wife and her new husband, children from previous marriages, work colleagues and even friend’s partners. I found it took the first nineteen chapters for me to gain a clear understanding of who everyone was and how they were interconnected. Most of my reading time up to this point was spent flipping back through pages to try and recall who people were. This said, I really enjoyed the last six chapters of the book since, once I became familiar with the characters, I was able to relax and concentrate on the truer meaning of the story. For this reason, I think I would gain a deeper appreciation for the story if I were to read it a second time.

Additionally, the timeframe between each chapter varied considerably, ranging anywhere from one month to three years. This meant I, once again, found myself frequently having to flip back to the previous chapter to determine how much time had actually lapsed between events. This information was much easier to locate, however, since each chapter started with the date in bold.

Grammatically, this book was almost faultless, with only a few notable errors detected. The writing flowed smoothly, and the layout of the book was appealing. The story incorporated many issues including friendships, relationships, death and love. Additionally, it touched on some significant life events e.g. 9/11. While, at times, I felt that some of the topics could have been further expanded, I also realised that, by doing this, it could have detracted from the overall message the author wanted to impart. I also noted that, while several of the relationships detailed in the book may be considered ‘unconventional’ by many, I really appreciated their inclusion since I felt they provided a more accurate reflection of today’s society.

Overall, I rated this novel 3 out of 4 stars. It was an engaging read and provided a lot of food for thought, however, I felt the need to keep revisiting previous chapters to confirm who characters were detracted from the story somewhat.

I would recommend this book to fans of general fiction who have an interest in exploring the complexity of relationships. It should particularly appeal to readers who enjoy stories told from multiple perspectives. Additionally, since the book also contains numerous topics which could be further discussed in a group situation, I would strongly recommend this novel to members of book clubs.

The Truth About Parallel Lines
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Post by Ruba Abu Ali » 11 Aug 2018, 04:30

I like novels that revolve around complex relationships and relatable characters. But I am afraid the abundance of characters would act as a distractor. I enjoyed your thorough and insightful review. Thanks much!

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Post by Rosemary Khathibe » 11 Aug 2018, 07:55

I wonder if Jenna's crush to John paid of? I will read this book to find out. Thanks for the great review.

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Post by Cecilia_L » 11 Aug 2018, 09:08

I'm currently reading a book that requires the type of page flipping to follow the timeline that you described. I'm finding it quite distracting, so I will probably pass on this book despite the otherwise interesting plot. I enjoyed your excellent review.

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Post by Fuzaila » 11 Aug 2018, 12:02

I'm intrigued by the way you describe the storyline and plot. I'm a sucker for complex relationships and this particular story about three different women intersecting in various points in their life sounds like something I might enjoy. Thank you for your review!
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Post by sharkyjen998 » 11 Aug 2018, 14:47

Great work on this review! I really feel you have beautifully captured the essense of the author's theme of "parallel lines" in your description, which makes me even more intrigued to check this title out. It really captured my attention when you brought up one character's bold lie about having an affair. Now I want to find out what happens with that!

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Post by kandscreeley » 12 Aug 2018, 17:42

From your description, I'm not sure I'd enjoy this novel. It seems a bit too rambling for me when I enjoy more action. I do appreciate that it's well edited, though. Thanks!
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Post by kfwilson6 » 12 Aug 2018, 18:14

This review is so thorough while giving very little away. Excellent job. I think I would enjoy this. I particularly curious about how the made up affair is going to play out.

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Post by teacherjh » 25 Aug 2018, 18:55

I get lost when there are too many characters too. Sometimes I keep a 'roll sheet' on my bookmark.

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Post by Allyseria » 31 Aug 2018, 20:33

Thank you for your honest and detailed review! I really like books that spans over a number of years because it makes me feel more invested in the characters and their lives. I think I'm going to have a problem with the names as well - I usually prefer books to introduce characters slowly into the book, but I guess I'll have to make do with this book.

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Post by Lunastella » 09 Sep 2018, 19:03

I really like the concept of the plot in this story. It´s amazing how our lives intersect with the ones of those that surround us and it reminds me a bit of the six degrees of separation theory. I also like stories that move in time, it´s interesting how characters evolve and their lives change, as well as the world that surrounds them. Multiple perspectives add a lot of dimension to the story so I think I´ll enjoy that.
However, I often face the same problem as you with names. I find hard to keep up with novels that engage that many secondary characters.
I´ll give this book a try, anyway. Thank you for your thorough and honest review.

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Post by trajoe1206 » 09 Sep 2018, 19:41

Thanks for your detailed review. I completely understand why you say too many characters and getting mixed up on who is who. I found this just from reading your review. I had to go back to see who that person was. Great review

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Post by Espie » 09 Sep 2018, 22:45

We all have our own unique set of circumstances as well as corresponding perspectives in life. As we cross paths and find our lives intersecting and intertwining with others, it's better if we make those chances count for what's best. I hope this book makes such happen for the characters and for its readers, too.

Thank you for your honest but well-explained assessment of the piece.
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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 10 Sep 2018, 00:53

The plot sounds like a spicy read in which we can find 3 women in a steady relationship while the other is knocking on the wrong door. What took me off is the unclear setting of the characters stated in your review. It took you to read 19 chapters to figure out the flow of characters which pulled me off. I agree with your rating on this one. Thank you for your review!
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Post by Sarah G » 10 Sep 2018, 02:38

Although the plot sounds interesting I don't like books where you have to flip back and forth. Characters should be introduced slowly not just thrown in. Great review :)
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