Book Review: A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin


almYou guys, what is wrong with me? I was halfway through A Doubter’s Almanac, and deeply in love with it, when I looked up the author. I assumed he must be a first-time novelist or I would have heard of him. I know all the books! And the folks who write them!

I was disappointed enough in the fact that I’d never heard of or read any of Canin’s work, despite the many accolades he’s received, but you can imagine my total devastation when I discovered that he is a professor at the University of Iowa – which just happens to be the school I’ve been enrolled in for the past three and a half years. How did I not know he existed! I was so distraught about it that I called a friend of mine who graduated from the Writers’ Workshop and asked if she’d heard of him. Yes, she had. In fact, he was her thesis advisor. Oh, and remember that time she asked me to help her care for a garden she was being paid to watch over for the summer? Yeah, that was Mr. Canin’s. What the actual fuck. I rubbed right up on greatness and didn’t even know.

Also, I received this book in the Powell’s Indiespensible subscription box and so it was a signed edition. I am charmed by the fact that Canin must live within a few miles of me, yet he sent these signed books all the way back to Portland, only to have it shipped back to me. I doubt that’s how book signings actually work but I am charmed by it nonetheless. Charmed!

The book though, the book. Like I said, I fell deeply in love with this book. So much so that it was my bet to win the Pulitzer and I bought a copy for my mom for Mother’s Day.

The story begins following one character and ends focusing on another. I don’t want to get into the specifics for obvious spoiler reasons, but I will say that there were a lot of men acting badly in this book. I read a review from someone who expressed her disinterest in reading yet another book about white men’s awfulness being excused by their genius (I’m paraphrasing here) and man, she ain’t lyin’. I get it. I really do. Also? I loved this book. It was engaging, interesting, and had both excellent character development, a rich plot, and excellent pacing. Two thumb’s up, A+, 5 stars, etc.

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