Sunday, August 7, 2011

Things That Make You Go Wow - by Melissa Clark

I have not laid eyes on my WIP in weeks, maybe months. Instead I've been spending my writing time reading. The other day I finished the fantastic "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett. Boy, did I love this book. I hope I can bring to my new book what I found in her novel including:

1. Humor - I giggled out loud multiple times while reading this. There are such hilarious interactions between characters that I reread sections over and over to study the humor. Like a good joke, the book managed to create anticipatory humor as well. There was build up, build up, and more build up and then bam! A perfect punch line.

2. Plot Points - Patchett did a meticulous job in plotting out her story. There were twists and turns, surprises, revelations, one after the other that really kept me turning the pages.

3. Characterization - Dr. Annick Swenson, the protagonist's mentor/antagonist/etc. was so real and scary and intimidating to me as a reader. Whenever she appeared in scenes I found myself tensing, holding my breath and hoping the protagonist, Marina, didn't misstep around her (which she did, often, a cause for great humor in the book) These people were real - alive on the page and beyond.

4. Setting - I loved being in the Amazon as much as I loved being in Manaus as much as I loved being in Minnesota because Ann Patchett really explored her settings with careful, vivid and compelling details.

5. Imperfection is okay - Did I love the ending of the book? No. Was I a little let down? Yes. Is that okay? Absolutely. Books. like humans, can be inherently flawed and that's just fine. While I was slightly disappointed by the ending, it did not ruin the overall reading experience for me. As I did not write this book, I have no say in how the author chose (or rather the story made the author choose) how to end it.

What books have you read lately that have made you go WOW?

Melissa Clark is the author of "Swimming Upstream, Slowly" and teaches literature and writing at Otis College of Art and Design and The Writing Pad, in Los Angeles, CA. Please follow her on her blog, Connections Clark.


  1. Great review! Will pick this one up.

  2. Hey Melissa--I just finished this late last night--and I LOVED it! (But, I figured I would since I adored BEL CANTO and RUN, too). It's funny because I actually thought it started a tad slow, but I trust her so i kept reading and the ending absolutely knocked me out--kept me up thinking about how I need to rethink my own ending . . .

  3. I've been reading a lot lately, too and State of Wonder was one of my favorites in a long list of good books this summer. Like you, I studied the book for instruction and plan to go back and outline the first chapter to see exactly how she reeled me in.

  4. I've always thought that reading is one of the best forms of professional development for a writer.

    Also, I think you've sold me on the book--off to shop! LOL

  5. I think the last book that made me go "wow" was The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. I raved about it. I had gotten it from the library but immediately went out and bought my own copy. The website for the book is

  6. I'm reading BEL CANTO now, and am kind of in love with it. Can't wait for STATE OF WONDER. Other than that, I really can't say enough good things about SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones:

  7. Loved Bel Canto! Amazing. And the ending thing--that's really a quandary, isn't it? I just read another book--I can't tell you which one, contest thing, which was SO GOOD, but the ending was --SO TERRIBLE!! SO what do you do in that case...when the rest of it was wonderful?

  8. You betcha! I read SO MUCH PRETTY by Cara Hoffman and LOVED it. Other favorites are MR. PEANUT and LITTLE BEE. I wish that I had time to read more. I am spending my spare time writing, writing, writing. Oh, and I loved THE MADONNAS OF LENINGRAD. XO

  9. Just added all your recs to my growing list. Did anyone read Patchett's "Truth and Beauty"? I adored that book, too.