Slapped Around

Of the 400-ish pages the make up Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, I think it’s accurate to say that I held my breath for roughly 150 of those pages. This book is unrelenting, unapologetic and unmatched in its dedication to its characters. On average, it takes me two weeks to read a book, maybe three. I read The Slap over roughly two months as I had to keep putting it down and collect my thoughts.

I was intrigued by the premise of the book when I saw it in the store a few months ago: at a suburban, Australian backyard family barbecue a child is slapped and not by his parent. The rest of the book is spent dissecting the consequences of this event as those consequences bring about massive turmoil in the lives of the characters.

At the heart of it, The Slap is about the bond of family, whether that family is by blood, by marriage or through a lifetime of friendship. The story is told from eight different perspectives over roughly a year. Each character feels strongly about the morality – or lack thereof – of this action and reacts accordingly. Some feel the adult was completely justified; others feel he is a monster to be shunned and disowned. Physical punishment of a child is a touchy subject in any company. Add to that the various ethnic (Aboriginal, Indian, Greek, Australian) an socioeconomic backgrounds, and Tsiolkas is able to paint an edgy, realistic, charged story.

I mentioned before that I held my breath through a large percentage of this book and that was because the characters are so beautifully flushed out – flawed, passionate, complex, occasionally despicable, desperate, loving, loyal – that when trouble brews it feels intensely real. Like there will be real consequences to their actions. One of two things would happen to me when these circumstances would arise: either I couldn’t put the book down and would read for hours or I had to put it down for days, even weeks. When the latter would happen, I’d want to pick it up again but almost dreaded it. “What hideous thing will they do now? Do I like these people? Do I like this book?” These and other questions would tumble around my head until I couldn’t stand the suspense anymore and back in I would dive.

I would absolutely recommend The Slap to anyone not offended by some very R-rated language and to anyone looking for a book that will stay with you for years. It borders on controversial – frequently – but it feels real. Each character – an old, married Greek man; a middle-aged hippie mom; a young, gay teenager; a drug-addicted father, etc – reads as true. You’ll feel like you know these people in real life, or can at least relate to their opinions and situations…regardless of whether you want to or not.

Wanna read a snippet? Head over here!

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~ by foodNURD on October 1, 2010.

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