Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Publisher: Doubleday (2005)

From the back of the book:

“Writer’s Retreat: Abandon your life for three months. Just disappear. Leave behind everything that keeps you from creating your masterpiece. Your job and family and home, all those obligations and distractions – Put them on hold for three months. Live with like-minded people in a setting that supports total immersion in your work. Food and lodging included free fro those who qualify. Gamble a small fraction of your life on the chance to create a new future as a professional poet, novelist, screenwriter. Before it’s too late, live the life you dream about. Spaces very limited.”

I bought this book when it was released six years based on this summary. When I started reading this novel, I had no idea what I’d be in for.

Being a fan of Palahniuk’s work, only having read Fight Club, I thought I would love this book. Turns out, just because I love one book of an author, doesn’t mean I’m going to love everything by him (even my man, Stephen King has his duds).

The first thing about this novel is that it’s composed of many short stories about the writers who abandon their lives at this retreat. And then there’s the story, “Guts,” which is one of the first short stories in this novel. One of the most visceral, graphic, and grotesque stories I’ve ever read in my life but also amazing that people have fainted and vomited during Palahniuk’s reading of this piece. These are only words people! But words can move you…or make you puke your “guts” out. I cringed while reading this story but kept going. I was able to appreciate the piece.

As a whole, the short stories about the writers were more interesting than the overall narrative. However, there were a few stories that were quite forgettable. One of my favorite lines in this piece (totally out of context and I’m not ruining anything by including it here) was: “I fainted…and you ate my ass?” I laughed out loud to myself because at this point, the story is so absurd you have to go with it. If you are not in this far in the story, honestly, you are not missing that much.

Because I chose this book for my book club, I was obligated to finish the book, even if I wanted to stop reading and read something else. This 400 page book took me almost a month to read, for crying out loud! If this book were amazing, the book would be completed in two weeks or less.

I don’t completely recommend this story because there were some interesting stories and some meh stories. The energy was uneven. The stories were all very well-written but there was no emotion; they were flat and dry. He did a fantastic job of the old adage of showing vs. telling, which was awesome but this book was not for me. In the end, the author showed me that ultimately he was as haunted as his characters…and so are we.


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