My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found “Men, Women, & Children” to be surprising. The novel centres around a group of barely adolescent children and their parents in an American town. The book covers a range of themes including sex, unhappy marriages, infidelity, divorce, sex, eating disorders, suicide, depression, sex, teenage pregnancy, and perhaps at the root of a lot of these issues – social pressure. Oh, and also sex. Did I mention that?
The children all want to have sex (at age thirteen, mind you) and the parents don’t want to have sex or, rather, want to have sex with people other than their partners. I knew roughly what the book was about, based on the recent movie trailer, but was still surprised at the level of detail with which the multiple themes are explored (read: really quite graphic sexy time bits).
Something I picked up on was that essentially of the issues experienced by all characters would be helped, if not solved, by open, honest, proper communication with the people around you. There was a lot of secrecy and Kultgen showed that two people walking away from a shared experience were actually thinking the exact same thing as each other but both often resolved to simply not talk about. This is something that frustrates me greatly personally and often causes me to get very impatient when watching movies or TV shows with a slow-developing romance. Stop um-ing and ah-ing and just tell them you like them! Anyway, I really liked how Kultgen highlighted that – it was quite subtle – and I hope other readers picked up on it too.
I enjoyed the writing (though I skimmed a lot of the football-related parts) and enjoyed the shifting spotlight style Kultgen employs so the reader is provided with a seamless switch from one character to another. I think this is part of what contributes to it somehow managing to not read like “just another teenage turbulence novel”. I liked reading about the teenager’s story lines as much as the adult’s, though I found the teenager’s plots to be overall more shocking and disturbing. The ending was very abrupt and left a lot of unanswered questions, which I’m not a huge fan of (hence the 4/5) but I can see why Kultgen would want to leave certain story lines open to interpretation.
Overall, I enjoyed it and am pleased there is a book out there that explores a range of issues quite pertinent to society today in as much depth and honesty. I plan on seeing the movie and reading Kultgen’s other books as well. Read it if you like reading about people’s lives. Read it if you’re interested in seeing things from different perspectives. Don’t read it if you don’t like reading about sex or football.