The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
This novel follows a group of friends from the summer camp they attended as teenagers in the 1970’s to middle age today. Jules, probably the main protagonist, has aspirations to become a comedic actress, but ends up as a therapist, married to a depressed ultrasound technician. Ethan becomes a wildly successful animator, and his wife Ash directs feminist off-Broadway plays. Jonah, son of a famous folk singer, abandons his musical talent to go to MIT and design products for the disabled. The novel examines some big questions without positing one single answer, which is probably the best way to approach themes. Questions like: How do money and jealousy change friendships? What happens to a friendship when one person’s dreams come true, and the other has to “be practical”? How does keeping secrets change a friendship and a marriage? What does it mean to be talented? How important is creativity to a life well lived?
I really enjoyed this book and felt like I knew its characters. I sympathized deeply with the feeling that Jules experienced, the sense that her teenage self was watching her and judging her, disappointed with the way she had turned out. Jules kind of spends her life trying to recapture the feelings she had at camp, only to find that the transformative experiences of youth are so intense and perfect precisely because they happen to you when you’re young. The setting–New York over 40 years of recent history–while common, was used well to shape the plot. The writing was wry and witty and never boring. The book reminded me of a few other books I’ve read recently about groups of friends in New York (Motherland) and groups of old friends who stay close over many years(The Red Book).