DNF Week: The Concrete Grove, by Gary McMahon

concretegrove The Concrete Grove, by Gary McMahon
Publication date – June 28, 2001

Why is this a DNF? I’d heard some good things about this book. And I was in the mood for some horror. Besides, this book takes place relatively near where I was born and where much of my family still lives, so I figured it might have some nostalgia value to add to the amusement.

It started out interestingly enough, though I found the writing somewhat flat and distanced from the action. There was a definite hook in the creepy factor. I found myself reading through the opening sequence quite quickly.

But what needled me was a later reaction. It was a small thing, but it made me think that I was going to have a hard time relating to one of the characers who seemed like they would feature prominently. You’ve got a married guy who’s having problems in his marriage, his wife is sick, and he’s unhappy. So he’s out running and find a collapsed girl on the ground, whom he helps out, but not before noticing that although she’s young, she arouses him a little. He tries to squash those feelings, then finds out that the girl lives with her single mother, and the guy’s thought pattern jumps to, “Hey, this girl has a single mom and I’m having problems in my marriage. I wonder if this is fate.”

Aaaaand you lost me.

I don’t doubt that thoughts like this pass through a person’s head in any situation. Thoughts just happen, even inappropriate ones. I get that. But this kind of thinking is just baffling to me. It may have something to do with the gender divide, maybe. But when I run into characters who have to interject that a character in a desperate situation turns them on a little, I start to raise eyebrows and back away from the story. It makes me uncomfortable.

I’m not sure if the “It must be fate,” mentality is actually going to play a part on the story. I don’t know if it’s going to be anything other than a random thought in a stressed character’s head. But it was another thing that just made me think that if I continued reading at that point, I’d spend the length of a book rolling my eyes at a main character, and I didn’t really feel up to doing that.

I may return to this book eventually. Admittedly, it was a small thing that put me off it, and perhaps it was simply that my mood didn’t match the tone of the book. I hear it’s quite good, once you get into it, and quite complex. But for now, this is staying on the DNF list, because I really don’t fancy trying to bridge the gap between myself and characters I find utterly incomprehensible.

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