The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Scenic Route, by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Floating around on the Internet are Sex and the City quizzes that supposedly tell you which of the four female friends you are most like. Sylvia Landsman, protagonist of The Scenic Route, would have no use for such a quiz, as she is clearly a Miranda. In case you never watched the series, Miranda often came across as emotionally cold, like she couldn’t break down the internal barriers to be nice to someone even when she wanted to be. She was also emotionally passive, often accepting the people who came into her life and not considering that she had the right to choose them or in any way shape them. That’s Sylvia.

Sylvia falls in with people. She fell in with her husband, who was really just a friend. And when she heads to Europe after losing her job, she falls in with Henry, a married man with a rich wife. They travel around Europe together, seeing the sights, making love, eating well, and staying in 5-star hotels. And to the extent she can feel anything, Sylvia sort of falls in love, although it seemed like this was something she decided rather than felt. Henry sort of falls in love, too, but I was never sure who he thought he’d fallen for.

There are many sins of omission in this tale, and there are many strangely cold people, including Sylvia. Bud did she ever have a chance to be different? I don’t think so. Sylvia is entertaining — with her family background and childhood, she has lots of stories. Her mother was awful, her brother is a jerk, and Sylvia spent her childhood trying to not fall into a well of sadness.

She also has a friend back home who shows every sign of raging manic-depression. That friendship never quite made sense to me; I wasn’t sure what Sylvia got out of it, or what Ruby saw in her. Then again, Sylvia is passive, so it makes sense on that level.

A protagonist who’s funny and wry and who also holds herself back is a tricky thing for an author to write. Kirshenbaum did a great job, and I’m glad to have discovered her. I spent a lot of time thinking about this book after I’d read it, and that doesn’t happen very often. I definitely recommend it.

As for violence to animals, there is some. There is a series of childhood incidents caused by one of those little bastards destined to be a serial killer as an adult. But the violence is entirely skippable. Stop reading on page 164, where it says “Among the dead:” and resume reading on page 167, the last line, where it says “It’s as if with death comes instantaneous absolution.” You’re good to go from there.

Otherwise, there are a few unpleasant images. A family pet is euthanized due to illness, there are a couple of bad fish-related incidents, and a few other disturbing moments. If you don’t like to read about sad things happening to animals, you can probably manage this book, but I would be cautious and skip the sections I noted above. Nonetheless, I am declaring this book PARTLY UNSAFE for animal lovers.


August 25, 2009 - Posted by | animals, beach book | , , ,

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