Thursday, June 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

Anne Tyler has a new book just released: Vinegar Girl. Billed as a modernized retelling of Shakepeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is the type of quirky love story readers expect from Tyler.

It’s been many years since I’ve read a novel by this author, but I’ve enjoyed her writing in the past and was hooked by the premise, so I was very pleased to receive this from Netgalley for review.

Kate Battista is a socially inept lonely woman living in her childhood home with her distracted, neglectful scientist father and her significantly younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate’s mother died when Bunny was a baby and Kate has essentially raised her, but now is baffled by how teenager-hood has made the girl stupid.

Kate is not stupid; she’s exceptionally bright. However, she is abrasive and was expelled from college for insulting a teacher. She now teaches at a preschool. The kids love her. The parents do not. And administration is on the fence.

So, things are not great for the protagonist. Then her father drops a bombshell. He tries, ineptly, to fix her up with his lab assistant. Pyoder Cherbakov is a brilliant scientist who is in the country on a special visa. He is allowed to work in the U.S. for three years and those three years are nearly up. To keep him, Kate’s father has decided Kate should marry him.

At first, Kate is annoyed and hurt. Her father cares nothing for her, only for his work. And Pyoder is too foreign. She doesn’t get him at all. She refuses to go along with the plan.

Then Pyoder starts to woo her. Their odd personalities mesh. Kate is humanized as she grows to understand him.

This is a charming, amusing story that reads very quickly. The relationship to The Taming of the Shrew seemed fairly superficial, but that’s fine because the story works very well in its own right. Tyler gets into Kate’s head and Kate is able to interpret the "whys" behind her father’s boorish behavior and Pyoder’s confusion and brusqueness. Tyler even shows us there is more than one side to Bunny. However, even though things work out for the characters, there isn’t a whole lot of depth of emotion. The characters end up in a good place, it seems, because their expectations were low to start out.