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Review: The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus

July 19, 2011

Holly’s not having the best year – she’s just turned fifty and is in the midst of menopause and the hot flashes that go along with it.  She’s dealing with her aging mother and is dreading her daughter’s impending departure for college.  To make matters worse, she has a deadline looming and her marriage seems to be on rocky ground.

When I first starting reading reviews of The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, by Sonya Sones, I figured it wasn’t for me.   After all, I thought the title was rather silly and the novel is written in verse, and I don’t “do” poetry.  Thank heavens my friend Julie urged me to give it a try, because I absolutely adored this book!   I suspect it’s somewhat autobiographical but, I felt like Sones was peeking at my life and writing about it.  I laughed and cried as I read this touching and heartfelt book.  I started to mark passages as I read it and found that I was marking everything, so I gave up.  The sentiments in this book are gorgeous and emotional and I found I could relate to so much of it.

Deemed a “coming of middle-age” story, I do think this book will appeal more to middle-aged women, especially those who are married and have children.  Don’t let the fact that it’s written in verse keep you from reading it – it just may be one of my favorites of the year and I’m singing its praises to everyone I know.  I even had Carl read a few of the poems and he enjoyed them too.

I want to share a few stanzas of a poem that really struck me.  Holly is observing her neighbor who’s irritated with her young toddler and writes:

Poor woman.

She doesn’t know

that someday she’ll long

for this late August afternoon

 

when she could have held

each instant

like a jewel

in the palm of her still smooth hand.

After reading The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, I want to experience more of Sones work and hope to explore more novels in verse.

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45 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 5:30 am

    Oh, that poem is beautiful. It touched my heart. Gollee, I’ll bet the book is fantastic. Thanks for sharing the poem. I’ve never read a whole book in verse. I would love to read one or more… I am not familiar with any titles. Might have to do a search. I think Julie knew you would fall in luv with the book. Glad it happened for you.

  2. July 19, 2011 5:31 am

    Can’t walk away from the poem.

  3. July 19, 2011 5:59 am

    Verse? hmmm…I don’t know

  4. July 19, 2011 6:47 am

    This sounds like a quirky but fun summer story.

  5. July 19, 2011 7:17 am

    Oh right, this book. Yes I do not think I would enjoy it. Sure that part is good but the whole book….

  6. July 19, 2011 7:38 am

    I’ve only read/heard good things about this book, but I’m still with your original thoughts. However, if it comes across my path I will pick it up.

  7. July 19, 2011 7:46 am

    I was immediately drawn to the title – and when I read your description I thought the author had perfectly captured my own life. I must run, not walk, to the nearest bookseller and pic up this gem!

  8. July 19, 2011 8:22 am

    See, poetry really is for everyone! You just have to find a structure that speaks to you. Glad to hear you enjoyed the book so much.

  9. July 19, 2011 8:22 am

    I like the title, the cover and the premise, but I’m not a fan of verse. But I’ll keep my reservations aside because you loved this one even though you felt that it might not be for you.

  10. kaye permalink
    July 19, 2011 9:06 am

    I would have been like you not thinking the book would be for me; yes, the title is silly and a whole story written in verse form? I would have passed it right up but I guess we would miss some great books if we did that all the time. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

  11. July 19, 2011 9:18 am

    I was also not sure that a book in verse would work for me, but the excerpt that you posted is surprisingly deft and beautiful. I might have to check this out and see if I would like it. This was a great review, and I am glad that you enjoyed it so much! It’s good to see so much enthusiasm for a book that defies genre stereotypes.

  12. July 19, 2011 9:23 am

    I’m not a fan of poetry either, but this book is intriguing. I have a copy sitting here on my to-be-read shelf. I think I might bump it up closer to the top. Very nice review.

  13. July 19, 2011 9:54 am

    I think I too would have to be dragged into reading a book written in verse!

  14. July 19, 2011 10:22 am

    Wonderful review, Kathy! It’s terrific when we enjoy a book we were reluctant to read much more than we thought we would.

  15. July 19, 2011 10:46 am

    No I have sipped on the Kool-Aid of free verse, and I am there. It works for me, and that is not a small statement. I will indeed be spitting in the face of fifty when Emma goes to college, so I’m sure I would find lots to love about this book. I am spending next weekend with my girlfriends, and I’m pretty certain we will find ourselves in a bookstore.

  16. July 19, 2011 11:09 am

    Nice review, might check it out.

  17. July 19, 2011 11:28 am

    I appreciate this review — I totally got glazed eyed about a novel in verse, but your comments and the snippet you provide have me curious! So I’m plunking it on the TBR — it looks like a fast read, inventive, too.

  18. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 19, 2011 11:31 am

    Looking at the cover and title I never would have imagined that this would be an emotional book. I’ll have to take a second look at this one.

  19. July 19, 2011 11:43 am

    i love the title but feel like the cover could be a bit better. 🙂 as for an entire novel written in verse? i think i’d be a bit leery on that score. glad this one was a pleasant surprise for you, though. i found the passage you included sweet (and true, if my mother’s lamentations are any indicator).

  20. July 19, 2011 12:11 pm

    The title threw me for a spin … the Hunchback at Neiman Marcus what’s the scope there? Does the title indicate the spin on the one in Notre Dame??

    I love it when a books defies your preset convictions and slams you with “Oh I was so wrong – and WOW!” Going to note the title for TBR list which overflows every day.

    Verses seem pretty popular now. Will let you know how Triangles comes out when done.

    • July 19, 2011 12:37 pm

      Hey PK,

      I was on the fence about using that title. But, to explain how the book got its name, here’s the poem from which the line was taken:

      The Leaning Tower of Me

      Samantha and I are cruising
      the Neiman Marcus Last Call Sale—
      because who can afford
      to shop at Neiman’s
      when it’s not having a sale?

      I’m admiring my daughter
      as she glides through the racks—
      her back so straight
      she looks as if she’s balancing
      a rare book on her head.

      I glance in a mirror at my own posture
      and am appalled at how
      my head’s jutting forward,
      as if it’s trying to win a race
      with the rest of my body.

      I’m stunned by the gorilla-esque curve
      my spine seems to have taken on,
      as though determined to prove
      once and for all
      that evolution really did happen.

      I snap my shoulders back
      and pull myself up,
      arrow straight,
      like a child being measured
      against a wall.

      Then, a few minutes later,
      while we’re browsing through
      a mountain range of marked-down panties,
      I see an old woman sifting through
      the thongs on the other side of the table—

      the hump
      on her back
      so enormous
      she resembles
      a camel.

      She looks up suddenly
      and catches me staring.
      I avert my eyes
      and am confronted with my reflection
      in yet another mirror—

      which is when
      I notice that my
      frighteningly King-Kongish posture
      has snuck right back up
      on me…

      Oh no!
      Is this how
      it all began for her?
      Twenty years from now, am I going to be
      the hunchback of Neiman Marcus?

      xx,
      Sonya

      • July 19, 2011 1:17 pm

        WOW!

        Now that explains the inspiration and I completely agree that my own body takes a complete transformation when rummaging through the sales bin.

        Great imagery and poetic license at its best. It fits perfectly. Thank you for answering the mystery question of the day 🙂

  21. July 19, 2011 12:34 pm

    Hey Kathy,

    Thanks for the lovely review. And wow…you got so many comments! This is a great community! I agree with the people who don’t think the cover goes with the book, but we lowly authors don’t get to choose how our covers look, alas.

    To the commenters who are still a bit leery of reading a verse novel, just try thinking of it as a book written in funny-shaped lines! And I promise no one will ask you to analyze these poems or memorize them. 🙂

    Here is one more little taste:

    To the One-Pound Bag of Oreos I Just Bought:

    It’s so sad
    to think

    that just moments
    from now

    you
    will be gone

    and I’ll
    be a cow.

    Thanks again, Kathy! And thanks, ladies, for considering reading my book!

    xx,
    Sonya
    http://www.sonyasones.com

  22. July 19, 2011 12:44 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    What a great sounding book and one which I can relate to!!!

    I am not a huge reader of verse, but I love the short one line statements that make up the whole, where each word carries great meaning and heartfelt emotion.

    I agree with the general concensus, that the cover isn’t the greatest, but putting that aside, I see that the book has been attracting some great 5 star reviews stateside, although here in the UK , there has been little or no comment at all.

    I shall be adding it to my reading list, if only to try and redress the balance a little.

    Thanks for a great review and recommendation

  23. July 19, 2011 12:44 pm

    Great review! I’m so glad you liked this one. I’ve read a couple of the author’s YA books and loved them. She does great writing in verse. I”m interested in this one..but not sure if I should read it soon or just get a copy and wait until I’m a bit older when I might enjoy it more.

  24. July 19, 2011 2:29 pm

    This sounds so unusual!

  25. July 19, 2011 2:58 pm

    Oh jeez!!! Another book to add to my TBR/WL!!! This sounds to good to pass up!!

  26. July 19, 2011 3:44 pm

    I actually like the title, but Anna and I have a personal “fondness” for Neiman Marcus! LOL I’m glad that you enjoyed the verse of this one and that you’ll be trying some of the author’s other work.

  27. July 19, 2011 4:54 pm

    I am truly amazed because I feel the same way about verse but this seems so unique and different…thank you for telling me about it.

  28. July 19, 2011 5:09 pm

    Oh, this just sounds fantastic. I love the selection you shared, and it really does make you think. Stories written in verse seem to be such a fun thing to experience; I look forward to picking this one up.

  29. July 19, 2011 5:20 pm

    FYI – had to share on the Tumblr account; the selection is just perfect.

  30. July 19, 2011 5:23 pm

    This is one of my favorite books of 2011. I’m not a “verse reader” but I loved it!! I’m in the age group of the main character so that may have something to do with my feelings. I gave it to my best friend and she loved it too.

  31. July 19, 2011 6:31 pm

    This sounds wonderful! What a unique book. Definitely putting this on my Wish List.

  32. July 19, 2011 7:56 pm

    This seems like such a fun read and I’m sort of intrigued rather than deterred, by the verse aspect of it.

  33. July 19, 2011 10:13 pm

    I thought it was chick lit from the title. The poem that you quoted by itself almost made me cry. That being said, it is so hard to remember to cherish every moment in the middle of the tantrums and whining. 🙂 I know I definitely need those reminders.

    I just read through the comments and loved the author’s verse about oreos – definitely a kindred spirit!

  34. holdenj permalink
    July 19, 2011 11:19 pm

    Great of Sonya to stop by with the title inspiration!

  35. Veens permalink
    July 20, 2011 5:17 am

    Wow! I am adding this to my wishlist. And I love that poem you have quoted. Love it.

  36. July 20, 2011 8:49 am

    This is a book that I didn’t think was for either. I’m so glad that I read your wonderful review Kathy. I am close to the age of the character in the book and I am drawn to the poetry and verse style the book is written in. How wonderful of Sonya to stop by and explain the background of the title through her poem. I am definitely adding this book to my must read list!

  37. July 20, 2011 7:39 pm

    I just knew you’d love it… and relate to it! It’s such a great book with a novel format!

  38. July 21, 2011 6:55 am

    I’m in!

  39. July 21, 2011 9:02 am

    I love it when books surprise you!

  40. July 21, 2011 9:11 am

    I enjoyed this one, too, though I agree that it would probably strike a chord with an older audience. I don’t mean that in the “I’m a judgmental young whippersnapper!” way that it came out . . . just that I think my mom, having had kids grow up, go off to college, etc., would find more to relate to within its pages.

  41. July 22, 2011 4:14 pm

    Kudos to you! I can’t get into books written in verse either. I need to have the meat on the bones to really be able to navigate a story.

  42. July 22, 2011 10:46 pm

    Hmmm, you know I truly value your opinion, but I can’t imagine liking a novel in verse. I will try to keep an open mind though since you say it is good! I will probably try to find a copy somewhere that I can really scope out before I commit!

  43. July 25, 2011 8:27 pm

    Wow Kathy! Sonya stopped by not once but twice!! I love her work and am thrilled that you read this one. It is one of my faves for this year and I cried, laughed, and sighed so many times while reading this one. Try her other books…they’re fantastic!!!

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