Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: The Moment by Douglas Kennedy

Because I am super behind on review writing, I'm saving a bit of time on this reviewing-writing binge by using the blurb from the back of the book.  Sorry for my unorginality ;)

"When I mysterious box arrives in the mail, a solitary American writer haunted by the long shadows of Cold War Berlin is forced to grapple with a past-and an intense love affair-he has never discussed with another living soul.  Readers will lose themselvs in the richly complex moral layers of The Moment from its 'evocative prose' to its 'spellbending finish'".

So that's kind of a bad description.  Not bad persay, but it doesn't really explain what the book is about.  Basically, Thomas Nesbitt is a 50 year old travel writer, and we are introduced to him following the death of his father.  He's just come into some inheritance money and decides on a whim to buy a little house in Maine.  Without telling his wife.  He doesn't go back home.  Then he gets a package from his publicist from Germany, and suddenly Thomas finds himself lost in the memory of a few months spent in Germany when he was in his 20s.  And I basically just did my own plot summary when I just said I wasn't going to.  Ha.

The majority of the book takes place in the 1980s when Thomas is in Berlin working on a book about the city.  It was a very moving, very emotional book.  The writing was just stunning.  Even if the story doesn't grab your attention immediately, I say give this a shot because the writing is amazing.  Like, it's drool worthy.  I have some examples coming up.  This was also a very depressing read.  Like so depressing that I had to keep putting it down.  Of course I think that's in part due to the fact that I read it around the holidays, and right after my grandmother's death.  So I was feeling super emotional at the time and couldn't always take the depessing things going on in this book.

The story I loved.  There were parts where it did drag, but then there were those parts where I just could not put the book down.  The draggy parts were few and far between and the "I can't put this down to go back to work from my lunch break" parts were often.

As for the setting, I LOVED.  Kennedy was able to completely capture the feel and the scene of 1980s Berlin.  I of course wasn't even around back when the Wall was around, but I felt like I had been in Berlin and experienced it for myself while reading this book.  The Wall itself is like its own character.  It is always present, always there, and very real.  It's hard to explain because I've never really read a book where the author was so able to make a "character" out of an inatimate object.  The Wall was so oppressive, and you feel that as you are reading.  Of course there's also the world on the other side of the Wall in East Berlin, where the Wall, yes, is keeping out a lot of ideas and materials and whatnot, but it's also creating a close, tight-knit community within its borders.

The characters were super awesome.  Thomas, for example, is very likeable and I totally felt for him whenever he felt distressed.  Yet he's also super annoying at times, which totally works for him because he's a journalist and has that personality.  He is constantly asking blantant, straight foward questions, almost like he's interogating someone.  But it's who he is.  Just curious.  Petra, Thomas's love interest, was a very complicated character.  Without giving anything away, I still don't really understand why she did some of the things she did.  But then I'm not a mother, so..  Without a doubt, my favorite character was Alastair, Thomas's roommate.  He is so hilarious, but deep down he is super sensitive underneath his sarcasm.  He's also a lot wiser that Thomas originally gives him credit for.

I loved this book.  I was really routing for a happy ending to Thomas and Petra's love story.  Obviously, I knew it wouldn't happen.  Because when the book starts, Thomas is married to someone completely different.  It was depresssing.  The book's title was so fitting.  It is filled with "moments"-the moment you meet the love of your life and feel that immediate spark.  The moment the relationship ends.  Each event is just a little moment in your life, but it is still a very important and life-altering one. 

Douglas Kennedy's The Moment was such a great book that left me feeling more emotional toward any book I've read in a long time.  I definitely think you should give it a try.  Have you read any of Kennedy's other books?

Thanks a bunch to the people at Atria books for offering me a copy of the book for review!

A few favorite quotes:

Page 108: That was the curious thing about life in the West.  So many of us with the right educational and socioeconomical opportunities chose to close ourselves off into lives we didn't want, complaining how we had become enslaved by mortgages, car payments, children.  Whereas over here...well, entrapment had a rather different meaning in East Berlin.

Page 195: One of the complexities of falling in love is that you cannot help but look for subtext in everything said between the two of you.  In that very early stage of a romance-when you know you are infatuated, when you sense (but don't have definite proof) that it's mutual, and you so desperately want it all to come right-you turn into a specialist in advance semiotics, trying to decipher every meaning behind the words that pass to and fro.

Page 211-212: "You love her, don't you?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"You are a lucky man to feel that.  Me-I've never felt that.  Never once."
"And you're still single?"
"No-married to the same woman for twenty-five years.  So I envy you."
"But say it doesn't work out?"
"At least you now know what it feels to feel that."

Page 376: But isn't that always the Last Chance Saloon hope of anyone facing a terminal situation?  Tomorrow I will wake up and the tumor will be gone.  Tomorrow I will wake up and she will be in bed next to me.  How we always hope for something to contradict the most terrible truths we have to face.  How we all privately believe in anything to counter reality at its most concrete.

Page 390: I said nothing.  Getting all the subtexts behind my silence, Stan simply gripped by arm and said, "You will find a way of living with the sense of loss."

Page 427: A snowy day.  Snow-the great temporary purifier.  The world goes silent and is baptized white.


  1. This sounds interesting to me mainly because of the setting. I've heard of Kennedy but haven't read any of his books yet..

    1. The setting was pretty much one of my favorite parts :) I especially loved how big of a presence the Wall had.