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A Stranger on the Planet : A Novel

The Lives of Seth Shapiro and his two siblings by Adam Schwartz

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A Portrait of a Man Trying to Find Himself

  • Apr 29, 2011
Throughout the book Seth seems to have only two real friends; Rachel, his lesbian girlfriend and his sister Sarah. It is Rachel who Seth seems to really love and maybe it is because he can't really have her the way he wants. Rachel helps give him ideas to write a short story called A Stranger On the Planet. Rachel gets very angry that Seth used her most emotional moment of her life to include in the story, though the characters and names are different. This story turns out to be the best thing Seth ever wrote and the author includes it on the last pages of the book.

Throughout the book, Seth keeps searching for ways to improve his relationships with his mother, father and Rachel. His other relationships are total failures especially one with Molly who he was married to for a short time. This book would definately be a good college read because the class could discuss all Seth's different relationships and why they are and why Seth is so determined to change them, ignoring other important things in his life.

I liked most of the book but I kept wanting to slap Seth across the face and shake some sense into him about things that appear obvious.

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April 29, 2011
wow. I like books about relationships; they often have something to offer to reality. Thanks, Michael!
About the reviewer

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I first got on this blog to discuss my first passion which is books. Since I have gotten on I find that books are only a piece of this blog and I can discuss just about anything that comes to mind. It … more
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Schwartz's debut novel is the touching and funny account of Seth Shapiro's dysfunctional but lovable family beginning in 1969, six years after his parents' traumatic divorce. His father starts a new family, but Seth and his twin sister and younger brother are left to deal with their unstable mother, Ruth--a devoted but self-absorbed woman who relies on her children for emotional support, picks the wrong men, and is always putting her foot in her mouth. Seth's adolescent embarrassment over his mother is both comical and uncomfortably familiar, and Schwartz captures these feelings with self-effacing, caustic wit. Scarred by his childhood, Seth struggles for decades with intimate relationships, and when he finally marries Molly, "the love of his life," he can't appreciate her. A tragedy brings the family back together, and amid the dry humor and the raw pain, there are some truly beautiful images. But while the balance between wit and emotion is sharply on point for most of the novel, the final third drifts into melancholy. While this does reflect Seth's newfound ability to communicate his emotions, it feels overwrought and out of sync from the sound narrative of the book's beginnings.
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