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Great Audio-Cassette Experience with Motherly Love!
on 22 September 2001
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas is a story within a story. The bulk of the book is a diary written by a mother for her new-born son. She explains how she met her husband, how they fell in love, what the pregnancy was like, and recounts her reactions to the life of young Nicholas. This part of the book works beautifully. I think the concept is a brilliant one, and I hope that parents who read this book will create such diaries for their children. The reading by Becky Ann Baker is moving, and brings these experiences to life in a wonderful way!
The external story doesn't work nearly as well. Katie Wilkinson has fallen in love and is pregnant by a mysterious poet from Martha's Vineyard. Just when it looks like marriage is in the cards, he flees. The next morning, she finds the diary along with a note that it may be hurtful to read the diary. She cannot figure out what the message of the diary is until the very end. This story's superstructure just dilutes the beauty of the story in the diary.
Mr. Patterson does one thing that I consider unforgiveable in a novelist: He deliberately shows off how easily he can mislead the reader . . . to me it felt sort of like him sticking his tongue out at you to establish his superiority over you. As one of several examples I could cite, Suzanne comes to Martha's Vineyard and runs into an old friend, Matt. In other places, she describes the baby's father as Matt. Naturally, many would assume that it is this old friend. No, it is someone else. The first Matt is in the story only for that purpose. Now, really! The most annoying example of this showing off was giving Suzanne a very extreme and unusual heart condition just so Mr. Patterson could create a tricky ending in the diary.
I would not normally complain so much about this sort of flaw, but these sleight-of-hand sections seriously degrade what is otherwise a very lyrical and well-written book.
After you finish reading this book, think about who else you could write a diary for . . . and then do it!
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