The backstory: Elizabeth Crane is the lone author who has had a place on my list of favorite writers without writing a novel. Until now. I've read and adored all three of her short story collections: When the Messenger Is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter (my review).
The basics: We Only Know So Much is the story of the Copeland family: 98-year-old Vivian; her son Theodore, whose memory is quickly fading; his son Gordon, who incessantly quotes Wikipedia; his wife, Jean, who is having an affair with a man in her book club; their daughter Priscilla, who is a self-absorbed teenager who dreams of being on reality tv; and their son Otis, who is nine and smart beyond his years. These four generations of Copelands all live in the same house. They share little else besides their obliviousness for one another.
My thoughts: As a reader, I often hear others exclaim, "the book was so good I didn't want it to end!" I've rarely shared those sentiments, as I always want a book to end so I can know what happens. Endings can sometimes make or break a novel for me. With Elizabeth Crane, however, I don't want her work to end. It's the reason I adore her short stories when I rarely enjoy short stories. I'm completely enamored with the way she describes our world.
The narrator in We Only Know So Much is the we of the title: "if we didn't know better, we might think she believed it to be a grammatical rule, and that, in her universe, the rarely used comma is reserved for sarcastic pauses only." Instead of distracting, this narration instantly bonds the reader with the narrator: who are we to be looking in on this crazy family? More importantly: I'm not in this alone.
Favorite passage: "Vivian operates at a pretty high level of denial where unpleasant things are concerned."
The verdict: We Only Know So Much is a delight. The quirky Copeland family are fascinating, but the narrator's take on the family is truly beguiling. If you're looking for a smart, sarcastic, hilarious novel: it's here, but you'll also be moved by its emotion and heart.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: June 12, 2012
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy We Only Know So Much from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)
Want more? Visit Elizabeth Crane's website, follow her on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. Read what others thought too: the full tour schedule is here.
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