BOOK REVIEW: Larry’s Party by Carol Shields

Larry's Party by Carol ShieldsLarry’s Party
By Carol Shields
Completed January 10, 2012

Larry’s Party is my first Carol Shields book – but it certainly won’t be my last. Admittedly, I was dreading this story. I envisioned a testosterone fest – thinking the book was about a self-involved male character who was a womanizer, cheater and full of himself. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Larry Weller was likeable, fallible and beautifully rendered in the hands of the talented Carol Shields.

The book chronicles the life of Larry Weller – an ordinary man with an unusual job. Larry creates mazes, and as he gets older, his work becomes highly sought after. Along the way, Larry gets married (twice), divorced (twice), has a son, moves and has a near-fatal health event. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of Larry’s life. Sometimes we learn about his first marriage; other times we learn about the relationship with his son. The final chapter culminates into Larry’s Party – a dinner party where he  is circled by loved ones and friends – and gets a chance to see his many blessings.

Overall, I enjoyed Larry’s Party. If I had to make a complaint, it was the constant repeating of information. I wasn’t sure if Shields was trying to make each chapter standalone, but the constant reintroduction of  known facts about Larry’s life got on my nerves. It’s a small complaint, really, and certainly wouldn’t prevent me from recommending Larry’s Party to other readers.

I look forward to reading more by Carol Shields and am glad to have read this Orange Prize winner. It’s the type of character-driven fiction I always enjoy. (  )


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah F
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 16:49:31

    I haven’t read Larry’s Party as yet,but I enjoyed The Stone Diaries by the same author. While the Stone Diaries did not win the Orange Prize, it won – according to Wikipedia -:The Stone Diaries, which is Shields’ most famous novel, won the 1993 Governor General’s Award for English language fiction in Canada and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the United States. It is currently the only novel to have won both awards, because being an American-born naturalized Canadian, Shields was eligible for both.

    It also won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

    There is another Carol Shields book that you might enjoy. I’ll have to consider Larry’s Prize – thanks for the great review!


  2. Dee
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 18:33:45

    I’ve read several of Shield’s books but not this one. It sounds like my kind of thing though and has been on my wishlist since Belva’s LibraryThing review.

    Great review, Jill and reassuring to know it isn’t a testosterone fest- which would probably be my least favourite kind of book!


  3. Laura
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 20:53:37

    Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed this! I had similar expectations and kept putting this one off, but was very pleasantly surprised.


  4. nomadreader
    Jan 11, 2012 @ 23:45:13

    I read this one during Orange January and was surprised how much I loved it too! I read The Stone Diaries years ago and recall hating it, but I think I’ll revisit it. I’d also like to explore more of Shields’ books.


  5. Kinga
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 00:06:24

    Although I AM a fan of testosterone fests, I think I will like this one as well!


  6. Buried In Print
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 04:04:40

    Funnily enough the “repeat” of information was much less noticeable to me on re-reading this one; I think it was much more deliberate, from a crafting perspective, than it seemed to me on the first go. Perhaps so that we are reminded of the ways in which we do repeat the salient information about ourselves to ourselves as we move though life? I loved the sense of growth and change (and not-growth and not-change) we have with Larry’s character, and our first introduction to him still rings fresh for me. I’m envious of your having all of her others to look forward to!


  7. 3m
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 01:18:37

    The repetition bothered me at first, too. After I finished the book, though, I realized I think it was by design. Larry’s life was a ‘maze,’ and sometimes in a maze we backtrack or go through (or by) the same part twice. Glad you liked it. I LOVE Shields.


  8. BermudaOnion
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 21:33:49

    The book does sound interesting, but I think the repetition would bug me too.


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