Author: Laura Kasischke
Release Date: March 2011
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Literary Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Publisher summary: Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.
Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.
Unless she didn’t.
Because rumor has it that she’s back
My Thoughts: I was looking forward to this book and had high expectations for a really well-written and riveting story. Laura Kasischke's prose is elegant, her writing subtle and clear. Her images come alive so vividly, I was able to see the people and places she described in my mind. It's not surprising that she's a published poet. Ms. Kasischke's writing style is one of the few reasons I read this book to the end. I hoped the story would finally gel and become clear, and the many gaps and questions in the narrative be answered. Alas, that never happened.
There are many elements of this book that attracted me and promised an exciting read such as: it’s set on a college campus; it’s partly a mystery with Gothic overtones; one of the main characters is a professor who specializes on death, dying and how different cultures treat the dead; and finally, a sorority and the hazing rituals many sororities practice, which have caused much controversy over the years.
There are many varied themes and issues in this book and a host of characters, several with side stories unrelated to any other thread in the book. As a result, the main theme often fades out for a while and gets lost in the shuffle while other themes and threads rear their heads. The Raising includes, to name a few: a ghost story, a mystery with gothic elements, a missing persons case, a murder mystery, a conspiracy thriller, a study on the dead and rituals related to death, fraud, and comments on sororities and hazing rituals. In other words, it’s too much for one book. Some of the threads or themes lack a beginning, middle or end while many have gaping holes. Perhaps if the themes and threads were more fully developed instead of left incomplete, The Raising could have worked well.
Professor Mira Polson is one of the many main characters in The Raising. She’s a cultural anthropologist who has focused her studies on death and dying and the ways different cultures treat human remains. The chapters about her class and the issue of death are very interesting, but scarce. Mira is married with twin toddlers and her marriage is in crisis. As she struggles to deal with it, she becomes interested in Nicole’s case. She plans to write about Nicole’s death and the deaths of students on college campuses. But she’s in despair about her marriage, confused and very sad, torn between her job and being a wife and mother. Mira’s story would fill a book by itself. Instead, we get disjointed chapters, some about her home situation, some about her classes, others about the situation with Nicole, all separated by many other chapters about other characters and themes. By the time I reached the last third of the book, I was confused and rather bored. I confess that I skipped several pages to get to the end and returned to read them later.
I hoped things would be straightened out and many of the gaps filled in by the end, but I was surprised and disappointed. An unexpected event occurs towards the end that brings the investigation about Nicole to a close. I was flabbergasted by this event and thought it unnecessary. I was also surprised by how it was handled. Like many other issues in The Raising, the result of this event was implausible. It’s difficult to write about this book without giving away the story so I will simply say that I found quite a bit of what occurred in this novel hard to swallow. Too many people with prestigious and important jobs in too many areas of the work force would have to be bribed or somehow “in on it” to make what happens in this book a reality. I was also shocked by how cruel and unkind many of the characters are towards each other as well as their general disregard for life and fellow man. Sadly, that’s one aspect of this book that isn’t implausible.
I’m not finished reading Laura Kasischke. I’ve read too many good things about her books and I like her writing style. But I can’t recommend this book.
Additional reviews of The Raising: Book Addiction: Reading Extravaganza; A Bookworm’s World