The basics: In Misfit, Adam Braver imagines the life of Marilyn Monroe, from childhood until her death, in brief vignettes.
My thoughts: Reading this novel, I learned how little I knew about Marilyn Monroe's life. This novel isn't a comprehensive novel of her life, but Braver offered fascinating possible insights into certain moments, some quite well known and some that were not known to me. From the beginning, the focus is on the end of Marilyn's life. Braver intersperses more detailed events of the weeks before Monroe's death with a chronological narrative. The effect was at times sad, at times downright morbid, but mostly fascinating.
This novel doesn't have much plot. For someone more familiar with Ms. Monroe's life, there would likely be no plot. For me, however, there were enough surprises added in with the known facts to provide a haunting context to a fascinating woman. What struck me as most impressive in this novel was not how well Braver got into the psyche of Monroe at different parts of her lives, although he does an excellent job. What was most impressive was how Braver captured the time of Monroe's life in a novel with sparse historical detail. For the first time, I was shocked at just how young Marilyn was, both in her fame and her death. Braver sets the stage with a date and location, but otherwise the narrative pulls the reader into the story. At times, Braver addresses the reader as Marilyn. A few times this technique was jarring, but mostly it did make me identify with Marilyn in a purely human way.
Favorite passage: "Because it’s nice to know there’s a person who wants to hear what you have to say, and is interested in it. And because of that trust, you try to be mindful that even if the things you say aren’t always entirely factual, they’re always truthful."
The verdict: Misfit is a fascinating piece of historical fiction. Braver's writing was luminous and highlighted the joy, pain, and idiosyncrasies of an icon's life. Ultimately, it's the most human portrait of Marilyn Monroe I've experienced, and it's one I won't forget. Its publication in coordination with the fiftieth anniversary of her death is particularly poignant.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: July 24, 2012
Source: publisher via Elle Magazine
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