Written from Irina's point of view, this is one of the most amazing books I've read. However, I had to get into it about 100 pages before I really started appreciating it. Her writing is dense with details and is far from simple, but it still felt like a quick read. The storyline is ingenious. I loved the parallel worlds in which events happen or words are spoken on both sides, but not always with the same characters. [It's hard to explain, but you'll see what I mean when you read the book.] Her characters are realistic, engaging and interesting. Irina was my favourite, but the other main characters were fun to read about also. I think I laughed every time Irina's mother called "Ramsey", "Rumsey". With respect to Ramsey, I kept picturing him as Richard Dawson ("Hogan's Heroes", "Family Fued") even though the physical description was completely off.
Because Ramsey is a professional snooker player, Shriver spends some time explaining the game and the circuit. Sure, I'd seen snooker a couple of times on TV and while I did find it interesting, I couldn't make heads or tails of the rules. Anyway, I learned more about it and that's always good. I even learned the right and wrong way to pronounce "snooker" or is it "snucker". Hmmm...I guess I've forgotten which way is proper. ;)
I loved Shriver's use of alliterations. To me they are like a seasoning in cooking. Too many can spoil a dish or in this case too many alliterations can spoil a novel. However, Shriver's a master chef in regards to alliterations knowing exactly when and how much to throw in. [I'm kicking myself now that I didn't save an example to include here. Trust me, she's good.]
In my favourite quote, Irina is talking about the moral in a children's book:
The idea is that you don't have only one destiny...But whichever direction you go, there are going to be upsides and downsides. You're dealing with a set of trade-offs, and not one perfect course in comparison to which all the others are crap.
I'm really looking forward to more works by this extremely talented author. I already have a copy of We Need to Talk About Kevin and hope to start it soon.