“The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath” by Kimberly Knutsen (2015)
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Adult
Page Length: 384 pages (paperback edition)
Set in the frozen wasteland of Midwestern academia, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath introduces Wilson A. Lavender, father of three, instructor of women’s studies, and self-proclaimed genius who is beginning to think he knows nothing about women. He spends much of his time in his office not working on his dissertation, a creative piece titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.” A sober alcoholic, he also spends much of his time not drinking, until he hooks up with his office mate, Alice Cherry, an undercover stripper who introduces him to “the buffer”—the chemical solution to his woes.
Wilson’s wife, Katie, is an anxious hippie, genuine earth mother, and recent PhD with no plans other than to read People magazine, eat chocolate, and seduce her young neighbor—a community college student who has built a bar in his garage. Intelligent and funny, Katie is haunted by a violent childhood. Her husband’s “tortured genius” both exhausts and amuses her.
The Lavenders’ stagnant world is roiled when Katie’s pregnant sister, January, moves in. Obsessed with her lost love, ’80s rocker Stevie Flame, January is on a quest to reconnect with her glittery, big-haired past. A free spirit to the point of using other people’s toothbrushes without asking, she drives Wilson crazy.
Exploring the landscape of family life, troubled relationships, dreams of the future, and nightmares of the past, Knutsen has conjured a literary gem filled with humor and sorrow, Aqua Net and Scooby-Doo, diapers and benzodiazepines—all the detritus and horror and beauty of modern life. (description from Goodreads)
The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath is a book that explores and dissects family, life, love, and relationships. Each character is dealing with personal issues that they struggle with on a everyday basis.
Katie wants a fairy tale life she can’t have and is constantly feels depressed because she feels disappointed with the life she’s living. Her husband, Wilson is equally unhappy and also feels no love from his marriage. On top of that, he also wants to be respected as an academic as the only male in his Women and Gender Studies department and vows to prove them wrong with his dissertation titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath”.
Katie and Wilson constantly nitpick and nag at each other making their relationship unstable. Both are so miserable, are not honest with each other, nor do they seem to trust each other very much. I observed that while reading this novel that they seem to blame each other for their own problems as they try to avoid personal demons that are deeply rooted in their past and upbringing. In addition to all of this, they both have a pessimistic view on life.
Katie’s sister, January, who imposes herself on her sister’s family is very selfish and very self-centered. She was my least favorite character in the entire novel. She’s depressed, is energy draining, melodramatic at times, and brings a lot of her problems on herself. Instead of fixing her own problems, she wants others to do it for them.
The novel is a bit of a heavy book, just by looking at its title. It deals with chronic depression, alcoholism, among other issues. I personally thought it would be more of a dark comedy because of the title and synopsis, but it ended up being too heavy of a book for me personally.It’s moderately slow-paced and it is set up into multiple sections. I did like that the story character-driven and how the multiple point of views allow readers to really get inside of the characters heads and see their past and current lives.
Overall, I wished that there was more character development in the book. While some characters changed for the better or got a better grip on how to solve their issues and move on, many were stagnant and dove deeper into their depression. The story moved a bit too slowly at times for me and I had trouble staying with the story at times.
Interesting novel, but a bit too dark for me.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.