I received this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In parts, this review might be a little too honest…
The Lauras by Sara Taylor took me a long time to read. For such a fairly small book, it was hefty and slow moving. I found myself dreading each encounter with it, but would get sucked in just for a little bit when I did pick it up, leading me back for seconds and thirds. I took it on a vacation, hoping that during the 48+ hours of cumulative travel time I would be able to finish the last half. Instead, I dozed. Now I realize that The Lauras is like the “Sleep With Me podcast” – rambling, sweet and monotone.
For some readers this would be the draw. Taylor has a knack for language, her style is poetic and pretty. Her topics are current, her characters laden with enough angst and mystery to appeal to both teenage and adult readers. The Lauras is about Alex of unknown gender, who is taken by his/her mother on a spontaneous cross-country road trip to rediscover her difficult past. While driving from one location to the other, stopping and living in various towns, Alex’s mother tells her the stories of her parents, her foster homes, and the different Lauras that she had met during that time. Alex goes along with this because he/she is swept up by her bigger-than-life mother, all the while struggling with his/her worrying thoughts of identity, sexuality and worry about the father and husband that they had left behind.
Alex is a sympathetic character. He/she is over-shadowed by her mother’s needs, regrets and dreams, and for the first part of the book Alex’s voice and identity is almost non-existent. The further they go, the older Alex gets, the more we learn about his/her personality, mostly through sexual experiences and thoughts. As a formal teenager, I could relate to what he/she was going through in that sense, and yet, I could not connect to him/her. There is no other way that I can describe Alex but as a rag. I wanted to hear more from Alex, and though I understand that this lack of voice is the whole point of the novel, but his/her inability to do anything but follow his/her mother without question to the point of avoiding conversations such as “Where are we going?” and “What are we doing?” was frustrating. Alex’s mother often dismissed her with “I’ll tell you later” and “You’ll find out” but for me, as a reader, those answers did little but make me dislike the characters and the book. Which is why I really could not care about Alex, his/her mother, or the Lauras.
I think that Alex’s mother’s character was supposed to be this larger-than-life, hurt-your-eyes-if-you-stare-too-long woman, who is selfish, wounded, full of secrets, who played with bisexuality, gave a daughter up for abortion, sold her body, worked too much to care for her remaining child, and yet that’s all she seemed to be – just a collection of stories and characteristics that are supposed to make her fascinating, edgy. Who am I to say that people like that don’t exist? She could easily be featured on /r/raisedbynarcissists on Reddit.
I did not realize how much I disliked this book until I started jotting down ideas for this review. It would explain why I dreaded it so much, even on the long plane ride. Despite Taylor’s obvious talent, I found this novel to be just a tad too whiny and melodramatic, filled with too much emotional drivel for any of it to be truly meaningful. One of the only reasons that I kept on reading is because I was hoping that the reason they ran away so quickly and quietly in the middle of the night is because Alex’s mother killed her husband. I think that would have made for a better twist at the end than a long-lost dying lover.