I’m the type of reader who never (well, almost never) gives up on a book–even if I have doubts as early as the first page, I stay optimistic until the last paragraph that there will be something redeemable in the ending. Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted tested this literary patience to the breaking point. After a strong opening–the narrator escapes a crash landing in a plane, a scenario which repeats itself so often in the book you wonder if she spit into the karma wind–the book is divided into small chapters differentiated by the narrator’s location. The problem, for me, was that there was hardly any discernible plot to tie the chapters together–the narrator seemed to be constantly traveling (driven by what she describes as her “bottomless wanderlust) and while many authors use a nonlinear plotline, there were so few chronological footholds here that most of the time I couldn’t tell whether the story was going forward or backward in time. The story also suffered from a lack of character development–people popped in, with no explanation of how they related to the narrator, and then popped out. The narrator travels to some remote and clearly breathtaking places, and the description is excellent; the repetition, though, seemed to dull my senses to it after a while. Overall, this was disappointing for me. I “Recommend with Reservations” since others may find the travelogue interesting.
Availability: SMCM, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kelly Smolinksy
Rating: Recommended with Reservations