I was introduced to Carol Shields when I read The Stone Diaries for the Pulitzer challenge. I fell completely in love with that book and wanted to read more of her work but hadn’t made it a priority. Now that I’m reading all the Orange Prize winners I finally got the motivation I needed.
So far I’ve read the first three Orange Prize winners now, and Larry’s Party is far and away the best. The writing is solid, but unlike the other two winners, there is a compelling plot that pulls you through. Much like The Stone Diaries, this story is not told in a traditional way. It’s broken up into 15 chapters, each of which is about a specific time in Larry’s life. They are chronological and the point of view remains the same – it seems to just serve the purpose of moving the plot along. For me it was successful.
This book had a really similar feel to the Rabbit novels by John Updike. As a huge fan of said Rabbit novels, that’s certainly a compliment, and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes complete stories; that is, this book is not just a screenshot of Larry at a particular point in time. You follow him through his relationships, the raising of his child, the advancement of his career, and you learn how he changes as a person as these things in his life change. In fact, I can’t think of a book with more solid character development.