Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Club Discussion: All About Lulu

Up for discussion this month is All About Lulu, the newly-released debut novel by Jonathan Evison. In the early pages of the book we follow Will through the death of his mother and his father's subsequent remarriage to his grief counselor, Willow. His new stepmother also brings with him the attractive-in-her-own-way Louise (nickname: Lulu). Will, with his abnormally low voice for a 9-year-old, had stopped speaking after his mother's death, and it is only through Lulu that he rediscovers his voice.

Lulu and Will forge a seemingly unbreakable friendship and eventually become pseudo-girlfriend and boyfriend. They develop their own secret language and depend on each other almost completely for friendship and understanding. That is until Lulu leaves for cheerleading camp the summer before they begin high school. Will is distraught that he won't have Lulu with him for a full month, and this turns to complete devastation when Lulu returns completely changed. She no longer responds to their secret language. She locks herself away in her room most days. And, worst of all, she acts as though Will is invisible.

Throughout the rest of the book Will seeks to figure out what caused this change in Lulu. What happened while she was away? He spends years obsessed with her (and I have to admit it got a little creepy after awhile), but finally begins putting his life together. He gets his dream job as a radio announcer and even starts his own hot dog stand business with his Russian-immigrant landlord. Everything is running smooth until the last few chapters when he learns of events in Lulu's life and is pulled back into her orbit and finally learns what it was that pushed her away from him all those years ago.

I really enjoyed this book, if only because of its loveably oddball cast of characters. First, there's Will's father and twin brothers who are all body builders. Evison takes the term "meathead" literally with these three, making light of the fact that they eat meat for just about every meal. Will, a vegetarian, laments several times that he thinks his dad believes the world is made of meat.

Then we have his Russian-immigrant neighbor, his ghost cat (Frank), and his philosophy teacher, who I particularly love because he enabled Evison to use his Sweats to Pants Ratio, of which I've always been a huge fan:

I'm developing something I call the sweats to pants ratio (SPR), by which success is measured relative to the days one spends in formal versus casual attire (formal being anything with pockets). By this measure, seven days a week in sweats is the pinnacle of success. I'm at about five-to-two right now. Pretty damn succesful.

So, what did you think of this one?

This month, in the hopes of getting more participation, I thought I'd ask some direct questions as well. Here goes:

1. Were you able to discern the secret before the end of the book?
2. What was your favorite part of the book?
3. Who were your favorite characters?
4. What did you think of Will's obsession with Lulu? Did you find it realistic?

Also, you can get a book club reading guide for this book at Jonathan Evison's site.

Oh, one last thing: Tomorrow I will be announcing the book for next month, but I haven't selected anything yet. So if you have a suggestion, leave it below. And don't forget to enter to win one of three lovely books here. Tomorrow's the last day to enter!


beastmomma said...

I did not read the book for this month's discussion, so I cannot participate-- sorry! For the next month, how about reading and discussing Perspholis? It was made into a movie and is a graphic novel which may be an unusual genre for this crowd.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the book either, but from your description it sounds really interesting!

I think Persepolis would be a cool book to read for next month -- I really enjoyed the movie.


Becca said...

Beastmomma: Thanks for the suggestion! I have to read Persepolis in a few months for the book club at my public library. I guess it can't hurt to get a head start through, right? ;-)

Alessandra said...

I loved this book to pieces!

My answers to your questions:
1. No, I wasn't, although I always marvelled at how Lulu kept calling Big Will "Dad".

2. I loved all the book, but the first part was amazing.

3. My favourite character was Will; I loved his witty remarks and his sweet side.

4.Yes, I found it very realistic, if not a bt creepy after a while.

Chason said...

I was really surprised by the ending of the book, but it helped explain Lulu's aloof and random behavior and the way she treated Will after she went away to cheerleading camp.
I really enjoyed the weightlifting aspect of the book. Evison's descriptions of the various techniques and his use of the weightlifting lingo was really impressive. It makes me think he either grew up in a family where somebody was really into the sport or he did a lot of research on the subject. His inclusion of our current governor was very interesting and it was funny how he had Will interact with him at the Mr. Olympia competition.
I really liked Will and felt I could relate to him in many ways. I didn't find his obsession with Lulu to be creepy, but I did find his obsession to be a little frustrating at times because Will seemed like a cool guy that could easily find another girl to go out with. Then again, you can't help who you love and for him Lulu was his true love and I can't blame him for holding a candle for her. I think Will's parents would have done him a big favor had they told him the truth earlier, but then the story wouldn't have been nearly as good.
One of the most interesting passages in the book for me was when Will compared himself to Troy, realizing that Troy lived in a different world: "I recognized that the world in which Troy lived was the world into which wealthy people brought their children - a world that engendered possibilities and was easily navigable given a philosophy that instilled confidence, a mythology in which destiny was a ladder and all you had to do was climb it, a world where morality was simply a matter of good taste. I, howeve, was taught (and so, mind you, was Lulu) that the world was made of meat, that everything had a short ending, that without pain, one could not possibly expect to gain ... Not only was I raised by peasants, but I was a peasant, too, because Troy's ideal seemed colorless to me - safe, predictable, virtually without struggle."
So Will observes that Troy's world is one without struggle, a world in which he can have most anything he desires, but while Will envies Troy that ease he also understands that Troy's life must be pretty boring - colorless - because he doesn't really have to struggle all that much to achieve anything.
There were times when I felt Evison pushed a bit too much and I felt my belief in the story starting to wane, but overall I felt the writing was really beautiful and the story grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go, which is why I read the book in about five days, which is really fast for me.