Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter possibly consists of the most non-optimistic characters ever. A Pulitzer Prize for Fiction of 1972, I had great expectations for the book when I initially picked it up. Perhaps three decades ago the standards for receiving the prize was… less demanding? Compared to the most recent recipients including Middlesex, The Road, and Beloved, The Optimist’s Daughter was a disappointment.
Laurel Hand returns to Jacksonville, Mississippi years after she had left the South to bury her father. After his funeral she finds herself picking up after his life with her young, rather callow stepmother, Fay. The more Laurel explores her old neighborhood and visits long-time family friends, the more she discovers about her father’s past. Fay, on the other hand, is left devastated, numb, and clueless as to how knowing the past would bring her a peace of mind; she doesn’t bother getting know old family friends. In fact, she goes off on a weekend getaway after the funeral takes place.
Nothing else happens. That’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever rated a book 1 out of 5 but this book is such a bore. I don’t think I was able to find any kind of literary concepts in the book. No climax, no character development, no irony even. I was served with a glass of flat coke disguised as freshly fizzling carbonated soda. How disappointing.
dee’s rec: 1/5