Monday, March 24, 2014
ARC Review: Going Over by Beth Kephart
Title: Going Over
Author: Beth Kephart
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
I feel oddly conflicted about Going Over.
Kephart's writing is, as always, a thing of beauty. From her vivid descriptions to her short, succinct phrases which convey emotion so artfully, the prose of this novel is to be marveled. Moreover, its subject matter - the tumultuous time period during which the Berlin Wall separated families and lovers in East and West Germany - has dutifully been researched, making this a novel which unabashedly immerses its readers into this era. Kephart writes of two young lovers, but even more than their tragic romance, she writes of their growth; of their relationship with family and friends, of their delicate dreams in a time period of suffering, and of their unrelentless hope for a future which seems so far away.
Nevertheless, that being said, I felt equally connected and distanced from certain aspects of this story. Going Over is told primarily from the Ada's point of view, a young teenage girl who dearly misses her boyfriend stuck on the other side of the wall. In fact, it is Ada's perspective which brought this time period to life for me, particularly the entire story line concerning a young boy she looks after in day care. It is written with poise and flavor, fleshing out these complex relationships and managed to resonate deeply with me. On the other hand, though, the perspective of Stefan, her boyfriend who lives on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, fell flat. It was told in second perspective, which felt unnecessary, and the love story within these pages didn't completely win me over as a result. While the romance is not the central point of the novel, it is a driving force of agency between these characters, dictating much of their actions and shaping their personalities. As a result, to feel indifferent towards it did me no favors.
Moreover, the crux of this novel lies in the fact that Stefan and Ada are separated. Ada is constantly convincing Stefan to take the risk, jump the wall, and live with her. It's dangerous and Stefan shares many reservations about this, which makes up the main story line of this book. Interspersed are other plot threads, all relevant to the time period, but this main arc didn't strike completely true with me. Mostly because the tipping point that launches Stefan into finally jumping the wall for Ada rang false, not selling me on this epic love story in the least.
Small Damages, also by Kephart, won me over heart-and-soul when I read it last year. Not only did it contain beautifully written characters full of messy dilemmas, but it forced me to re-evaluate my opinions on the many issues it covered. Compared to that, Going Over falls flat as it never truly propelled me to think beyond the scope of the story. If you're looking to get a taste of Kephart's writing style, however, alongside a moving story, I cannot recommend that novel enough. Going Over is beautifully written and its ending is downright poetic, but I still am far more conflicted about it than I'd like to be...