How to Buy a Love of Reading
By Tanya Egan Gibson
(Dutton Adult, Hardcover, 9780525951148, 400pp.)
Publication Date: May 14, 2009
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Fall in love with reading all over again.
To Carley Wells, words are the enemy. Her tutor's innumerable SAT flashcards. Her personal trainer's "fifty-seven pounds overweight" assessment. And the endless reading assignments from her English teacher, Mr. Nagel. When Nagel reports to her parents that she has answered "What is your favorite book" with "Never met one I liked," they decide to fix what he calls her "intellectual impoverishment." They will commission a book to be written just for her-one she'll have to love-that will impress her teacher and the whole town of Fox Glen with their family's devotion to the arts. They will be patrons- the Medicis of Long Island. They will buy their daughter The Love Of Reading.
Impossible though it is for Carley to imagine loving books, she is in love with a young bibliophile who cares about them more than anything. Anything, that is, but a good bottle of scotch. Hunter Cay, Carley's best friend and Fox Glen's resident golden boy, is becoming a stranger to her lately as he drowns himself in F. Scott Fitzgerald, booze, and Vicodin.
When the Wellses move writer Bree McEnroy-author of a failed meta-novel about Odysseus' failed journey home through the Internet-into their mansion to write Carley's book, Carley's sole interest in the project is to distract Hunter from drinking and give them something to share. But as Hunter's behavior becomes erratic and dangerous, she finds herself increasingly drawn into the fictional world Bree has created, and begins to understand for the first time the power of stories-those we read, those we want to believe in, and most of all, those we tell ourselves about ourselves. Stories powerful enough to destroy a person. Or save her.
- At the beginning of the novel, we are shown a handout Carley filled out for her English teacher (p. 16). Later, we’re also shown a “Manifesto” she writes for Bree (p. 121). How did these documents color your initial impressions of her? Did your interpretation or understanding of her responses change once you read the entire book?
Brimming with literary allusions, commentary on the rich and famous, and the necessary ingredients for a successful novel, Gibson's ingenious debut succeeds on many levels."
"Gibson creates a literary work that is fresh, complex and compelling.... All the themes in the novel are richly drawn and universal - love, "saving" someone, the question of what reality really is, loneliness, betrayal. The conflicting themes create a palpable sense of tension as the end of the book approaches. Which will prevail - love or loneliness? Salvation or betrayal? The best thing a book can do is to make its reader think. Just as Carly is transformed as she works on "her" novel, Gibson's How To Buy a Love of Reading gives the reader equal opportunity to embark on a worthy, entertaining mental stretch."
-Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"From the opening sentence of this strongly sardonic satire, Gibson's debut, it is clear that nothing is sacred. Whether examining trendy charity functions or the muted morals of the so-very-rich, her acerbic, acidic book is right on the money. The major surprise is that the novel also has a heart, and Carley leaps off the page as the most real character....Readers fond of Claire Messaud and Marisha Pessl might want to try Gibson's bold outing."
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Tanya Egan Gibson, a fresh and funny new voice in the world of fiction."
-Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and One Mississippi
"What a page-turner! Propelled by razor-sharp wit, Gibson lovingly skewers two self- obsessed classes: the upper crust and the literary. I'd say you can buy a love of reading yourself, very easily, right now."
- Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside
"At last, a novel for those of us who love both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Emotions that rise to the level of myth, a heroine who faces a daunting challenge, a passion that surpasses self-interest or reason-they're all here, and so are ironic commentary, gorgeous prose, and an inspiring argument for the necessity of stories. Tanya Egan Gibson's remarkable debut proves her case: that stories have power, and that we cannot do without them in our ongoing struggle to excavate the secrets of the human heart."
-Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You and Me
"How to Buy a Love of Reading is a wholly original and wonderful first novel about growing up in the strangest of worlds, and the incredible power of storytelling to make that world livable. In her lovely debut, Tanya Egan Gibson blends humor and sentiment in the most surprising of ways. The story she weaves is a joy from start to finish."
-Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party and London is the Best City in America
"Carley Wells, the protagonist of Tanya Egan Gibson's How to Buy a Love of Reading, is at once a sympathetic antihero and a much appreciated antidote to the cultural pretensions of Long Island's aristocracy. This is satire with a heart."
-Will Allison, author of What You Have Left