Every time I watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, I marvel at the size of mugs at Luke’s Diner. Not being a coffee drinker, I never totally understood the need for caffeine, especially in the amounts consumed by Rory and Lorelai. That is, I didn’t understand until I became a chai latte addict. Now, I happily accept my oversized mug full of frothy milk, cinnamon, and syrupy sweet black tea. It’s practically a confection, but I’m totally okay with that. Calories be damned. (Speaking of Gilmore Girls, super excited for the Netflix revamp.)
As of late, I’ve been attempting to reconfigure the structure of my mornings. I don’t enjoy that sluggish feeling when I try to pull my sleepy self out of bed and get dressed, just in time to grab the bus, and spend the first hour at my desk chaotically sifting through email. For a period of time, back in the spring, I consistently wrote before work, and that was an enjoyable routine for the few months it lasted. The manuscript was successfully completed, after which I took a break from the demands of my internal productivity gremlins.
So, I’ve most recently instituted early morning reading sessions, usually at a café of some kind, where I can enjoy a hot beverage while flipping through the pages of the latest TBR selection. Hence, the bowl of chai.
This week, I finished Rooms by Lauren Oliver, a clever take on the haunted house novel. Narrated by two opinionated ghosts, along with the flaky, somewhat narcissistic members of the Walker family, Rooms is, at a very basic level, about disappointment. Everyone is disappointed with the state of their lives. Minna, the daughter, is a nymphomaniac and scattered. Trenton, the son, is a depressed and suicidal teenager. Caroline, the wife and mother, is an alcoholic. Amy, the peripheral granddaughter, offspring of neurotic Minna, is the only one in this crowded book who can offer a moment of silence among the incessant chatter. Everyone has returned to deal with the death and associated fallout of Richard, the absent and disliked patriarch of the family, and his apparently deplorable life choices.
Then, of course, there are the ghosts: Sandra, potty-mouthed and amusingly blunt, a bountiful supply of one-liners in her holster; and, Alice – tragic, sentimental, mostly in denial. These ladies conveniently hide in the shadows and observe the goings-on, meanwhile reliving their own past lives.
As much as I enjoyed the multi-narrative style and the dialogue, I was underwhelmed by the mystery itself. Who is Adrienne Cadiou? Who is Katie? What happened to Alice? How did Sandra really die? All these questions are answered, but with a somewhat lackluster ta-da reveal that left me muttering, “meh.” Not to mention, Katie got on my last nerve.
Eventually, I grew frustrated with Trenton and Minna, whose vague recollections of sexual abuse are never dealt with in a satisfying way; brother and sister never completely develop into characters I could care about. And the ending, as far as I could tell, wrapped up every dangling plot thread – almost too succinctly.
The shining light in the cacophony of competing voices is Sandra. The entire Walker family is like a giant wet blanket. (For them, life is very serious. Life is to be escaped. Must fill the void.) Sandra, on the other hand, the much-needed comic relief of Rooms, delivers a joke like a pro. Although an alcoholic while alive, for her, laughter and fun are still on the menu, even in death.