Relationships, all sorts of relationships, that’s what life’s really all about – whether it be marriage, getting a divorce, having an affair, or living as a single person, each of these situations is interrelated. And, we endeavor to enter into our relationships with love being the driving force, though sometimes it seems fuzzy to us.
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
— Oscar Wilde
Here’s where Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love comes in, it’s a wonderful, twisting, sensitive, and quirky-comical romp through a series of characters whose lives at first seem disparate, but then begin to intertwine as Baxter unfolds his superb story of love. The characters are ordinary people – a man who runs a coffee shop, a just out of high school young punker-style boyfriend-girlfriend, an over-sexed female attorney having an affair with a married man, the list goes on – who experience the sort of hardships and trials we can all relate to. Yet, with the deft hand of Baxter, we see beyond the surface of seemingly plain-looking events, and we sense the depth of emotions these people experience.
Since The Feast of Love is the first book I have read by Baxter, I wasn’t familiar with his style of writing. As I set out to dive into his story, I found myself upset early on, thinking to myself: “What is this guy trying to do?” I took offense at the liberties Baxter was taking with me, the reader. First off, he would make rather abrupt narrative changes from one character to another, and that made me do some work to keep up. Secondly, I became angry at the detail Baxter provided in describing the bedroom activities of those engaging in ongoing affairs.
At times, I was ready to give up and toss the book onto the pile for donation, but I am known to be stubborn, and I managed to stick it out. It paid off big time, as I learned a lot during my endeavor. I came away with an understanding of why it made sense for Baxter to unfold his story the way he did. He was presenting a true-to-life snapshot of life as it really is , with all its rough edges. And, now, even days after finishing the book, I find myself thinking about some of the characters, and wondering what they would be doing now.
The Feast of Love
The Feast of Love was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award for Fiction.
Charles Baxter was born in Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of eight works of fiction. Although his body of work includes poetry and essays, he is best known for his fiction – brilliantly crafted, non-linear stories that twist and turn in unexpected directions before reaching surprising yet nearly always satisfying conclusions.