Friday, March 13, 2015

Did Tolstoy Lie?

Can Happy Stories Be Interesting? Rachel Kadish reveals the answer in her book, Tolstoy Lied.  In the book, Tracy Farber, a young American literature professor in New York, explores this idea and searches for her own unique happy ending.

According to Tracy, Tolstoy lied.  His theory that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” just can’t be true because that would mean happiness is completely uninteresting.  But to Tracy, she’s happy in her own way, being independent and single, so why can’t stories of happiness be just as interesting and meaningful as tragic ones?  This is the premise of her new secret project, secret because she is up for tenure at her university and can’t afford to do anything risky.  She has to play by the silly rules of academic politics as her friend in the department Jeff always reminds her.  Then Tracy meets George and everything seems to change and start going her way. But as things become more serious, George seems to change and Tracy is confronted by the reality that she may too have to change to be with the man she loves. Tracy just doesn’t understand why she can’t be in love and still be herself but everyone in her life seems to be telling her that its not possible.  As her love life hits a snag so does her professional one as Tracy becomes part of an escalating conflict with a more senior colleague, Joanne,  because Tracy believes that Joanne is pushing Tracy’s graduate student, Elizabeth, too hard.  Jeff, tells Tracy to let Elizabeth to fend for herself.  But Tracy just can’t and before she knows it, the situation explodes just as her love life comes crashing down around her.   Worse, Tracy gets blamed for the entire mess, which makes no sense to her.  Tracy’s struggle to stand up for herself can drive the reader mad at times, but by the end, it feels as if the reader has taken the emotional journey with Tracy and learned her lessons as well.

By the end, Tracy’s story becomes entirely relatable because who hasn’t felt as if the world is going crazy around them?

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