3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
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
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes
Like jwalker73's review? Post a comment saying so!