Confession: I was destined to like this book. I’m a fan of Wolitzer’s writing. I can’t get enough of stories about groups of friends and how their relationships change over extended periods of time. I’m always interested in novels set in NYC. And (most importantly) I went to theater camp.
I attended Stagedoor Manor in Loch Sheldrake, NY for six wonderful summers. Please enjoy the photos of me in various SDM productions throughout the years included in this blog post. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Stagedoor is the best, most magical place in the entire world. For three weeks at a time, 250 campers descend upon this haven in the Catskill Mountains. Within 48 hours, you are cast in one of the thirteen shows produced each session and registered in a series of classes of your choice – these can be anything from Theater Games to Intro to Fosse to Songwriting – there’s so much you can learn. At the end of each session, thirteen shows of an impressive caliber are presented.
You work your body harder than what you thought you could handle – you work all day and stay up all night. You make the best friends. You drink way to many Dr. Peppers from the vending machine. You steal peanut butter packets from the cafeteria and sing happy birthday in 5 part harmony. You’re treated like a professional in the rehearsal room – a lot is expected of you and of course you give it all because everyone else is too.
Stagedoor was everything to me. And to thousands of other campers who were lucky enough to attend. For The Interestings, the name this group of friends humbly gives themselves, Spirit-in-the-Woods defined the course of their lives as well. Technically, Spirit-in-the-Woods offered more than just theater, but besides that, they’re quite similar.
Not a single character in this book is perfect. Each and every one of them has within them a multitude of flaws. And this is a book about finding away to live with those flaws. With lies and diagnoses and sacrifices. About loving and living with a partner with depression. About loving and living with a partner who is a genius in their field, but not as competent in the home.
If you like sweeping tales of friendship, New York City, and the rush of receiving applause, you’ll love this novel. It’s beautifully written – information is revealed in a careful and thrilling way. Characters are developed over time. People and circumstances change like they do in real life. Wolitzer’s prose is at once elevated and relatable.
Interested in The Interestings?
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts form what seems likely to be a lifelong friendship. Decades later the bond remains, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, the New York Times-bestselling author Meg Wolitzer follows her characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
Through adolescence, the artistic interests and abilities of these six friends have all been indulged, encouraged, and celebrated. But the kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty – not to mention age fifty – and not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. For the group of friends who met and joined together because of a shared sense of being “interesting,” this is a startling and sometimes painful realization. Slowly, one by one, they must consider adjusting their expectations.
Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation as a therapist. Her friend Jonah, a gifted guitarist, puts aside music completely and becomes a mechanical engineer. In wild contrast, however, their two closest friends, now married to each other, have become shockingly successful and famous, while also remaining true to their artistic dreams. Ethan, a brilliant animator, has a hit TV show and franchise. His wife, Jules’s best friend, Ash, has found lasting critical respect as a stage director. What’s more, Ethan and Ash also now possess the means and influence that allow their artistic dreams to keep expanding. But what becomes of friendships when two of the friends reach a level of startling success and wealth, and the others do not? And what happens when the person you envy most deeply is also someone you genuinely love?
As we watch these characters more from the narcissism and infatuations of adolescence in the into the realities of adult life, which include love, marriage, children, deaths in the family, and career struggles that persist through it all, Wolitzer brings clarity to the experiences of aging and maturing, and the way lives are slowly shaped or unraveled. With heart-stopping insight and wisdom, as well as humor, she perfectly captures what it feels like to suddenly understand – perhaps too late – who we have been and where we are headed, and to know that it’s no longer a certainty we’ll be heading there alongside the people who know us best.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the ways that class, power, art, money, success, and friendship can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a life.