Three Junes=Best Book I've Read in 2011!

Julia Glass' Three Junes is by far, hands down the BEST book I've read this year.  It was the 2002 winner for the National Book Award for Fiction and definitely deserved it.  I picked this book up for my scattered Edinburgh bookclub and I can honestly say that it's my favorite of all that we have read in the past nearly three years (ugh).  It makes you laugh, cry, smile, and think.  That's what makes this book so good.

The story centers around the McLeod family, natives of Scotland, and follows members across continents, years, relationships, sexuality, heartache, anguish, and happiness.  It's told in sections from the perspective of the patriarch, Paul, his oldest son, Fenno, and Fern, a woman who manages to weave herself into the lives of these two men without much effort and who, after the first section of this book, the reader does not really think about again.

We first meet Paul in 1989 and are welcomed into his personal anguish over the death of his wife.  He ventures to Greece as a way of grieving and it's in this place that he meets Fern.  The reader is taken into Paul's thoughts and feelings as a widower.  His story is interspersed with flashbacks of life before his wife's death.  We learn how they met, how he courted her, how they made a living, how they raised a family, and how their lives unfolded and played out before it ended.  Paul's time spend in Greece was an integral part in setting everything in motion.

Next to come to the front of the narrative is Fenno, who we meet again in 1995.  Fenno has moved to New York and become the owner of a small, independent bookstore.  Through Fenno's telling of the family story we meet the brothers of the McLeod family and are given brief glimpses into their lives as individuals and as an entire familial unit.  We are shown how life was for the boys growing up and how they coped with their mother's death.  We are also shown how they cope with the death of their father and all the questions his death brings with it.  This section is the most hefty of the three and gives the reader the most insight into Fenno and the complications he encounters as a member of this family.  It is also the most heartwrenching of the three sections.

In the last section, we are brought forward to 1999 and are given an entirely different perspective of life.  It is here that we encounter Fern as a narrator.  Just like the McLeod family, she has endured heartache, though a very different kind.  It is exactly ten years since we first met Fern through Paul's eyes and now we meet Fern through her eyes.  She brings an entirely new aspect to the novel and gives us a fresh glimpse into the McLeod's through her conversations with Fenno and David, his younger brother.  We are caught up on what's happened to the family since Fenno's narration.  The budding friendship between Fenno and Fern gives the novel a sense of completion and a feeling of something coming full circle.

Traveling across landscapes...languages...lifetimes...gives this novel something special.  The word choice and complex feelings that Glass flawlessly writes are, without a doubt, superior.  She invites the reader into this world, no different from the one we are actually living, and gives them a bird's eye view of this family.  Their struggles are our struggles.  Their heartache is our heartache.  Everything they are, we are.  It's brilliant.  Read it!



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