Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

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Title: Diary
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: Anchor
Paperback: 262 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Misty Wilmot has had it. Once a promising young artist, she’s now stuck on an island ruined by tourism, drinking too much and working as a waitress in a hotel. Her husband, a contractor, is in a coma after a suicide attempt, but that doesn’t stop his clients from threatening Misty with lawsuits over a series of vile messages they’ve found on the walls of houses he remodeled. 
Suddenly, though, Misty finds her artistic talent returning as she begins a period of compulsive painting. Inspired but confused by this burst of creativity, she soon finds herself a pawn in a larger conspiracy that threatens to cost hundreds of lives. What unfolds is a dark, hilarious story from America’s most inventive nihilist, and Palahniuk’s most impressive work to date.
Overall Rating: 4/5

This is a story written in diary format from Misty's perspective, but it's a letter to her husband, so there is  second-person narrative element to it, which I liked. Basically, this story is about Misty, a girl who fell in love with a guy and ended up getting pregnant. So, she quit art school. She quit art, period. Though her husband comes from a rich family, they fall on hard times, so she gets a job as a waitress. He gets a job remodeling houses. We come into the story after the husband has tried to kill himself and is now in a coma; Misty gets calls from her husband's clients and finds that his remodeling jobs held secret messages; and Misty's mother-in-law keeps trying to get her to paint. For some reason, this will save all the residents of the island on which they live, and island that is being overrun by tourists.

To describe Diary in two words: deliciously weird.

This was my first foray into Palahniuk's mind. I have quite a few friends who are in love with him, but I have to admit, for the better part of this novel, I just wasn't sold. The beginning is just strange. Costume jewelry seems to be a big issue, and I just didn't get. Everything was surreal; the way Misty was able to find hidden messages that led her exactly where she needed to go; the way Misty's mother-in-law, daughter, and doctor treated her; really, everything about it was simply strange.

None of it seemed to connect, and I thought I was reading a story that was strange just for the sake of being strange. However, it still intrigued me and I kept on going. I wanted to know what would happen to poor Misty. Would she start painting again? Would her husband wake up? Would her mother-in-law lay off? I had all these questions, and I wanted them answered.

Thank goodness for those questions, because Diary comes together beautifully. Don't get me wrong, it's still strange. But it's strange with a purpose. Everything is happening for a reason, and once that was made clear, I fell in love. The narrative is expertly done. I was taken on the journey with Misty, who also had no clue about what was going on. Along with her, I discovered the island inhabitants' strange beliefs and their even stranger plan for saving their livelihoods.

There were some times where I thought the story was too drawn out, but for the most part, I enjoyed it. It's horrific, terrifying, and intriguing all at the same time. For those who like their books weird, definitely pick this one up. You won't regret it.