Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner
Main Character: Otis, Dara, Meg
Overall: 1 out of 5 stars
Meg is moving back after her father’s job forces them to relocate back to Chicago. Otis hasn’t heard anything from her since the accident that killed Otis’s baby brother. Otis is still in love with Meg, and has had some trouble moving on. He spends his days writing poetry, training for swimming meets, and keeping Dara, his friend/coach from experiencing the pain associated with phantom limbs.
Nothing has been the same since Mason died three years ago.
Nothing has been the same since Meg left three years ago.
Nothing has been the same since Dara started training him in swimming three years ago.
And yet, three years later, everything has changed.
This book is exactly why I steer clear of contemporary stories. They tend to drag on with nothing happening while pretending the main character is actually a big deal. In reality this particular narrator, Otis Mueller, was a wimpy, hormonal one-dimensional character who, when he’s not whining about the loss of his brother, he whines about how his childhood friend hasn’t spoken a word to him since she left. When she does come back, all he can think about is how she’s changed so much and she’s no longer who she was.
One of the main reasons I did not stop listening to the book is because I was really hoping that I would get answers to some of the main questions that I had (None of these are spoilers):
How did Mason die?
How did Dara lose her arm?
Why is Otis infatuated with Meg?
Enter Meg, a beautiful girl who can do no wrong, at least in Otis’s eyes (Except, of course when her family abruptly moved to California after Mason’s death). She has come back for three and a half weeks in the summer and all Otis wants is to rekindle the flame they had so long ago. The problem is that Meg has a boyfriend back in California. That doesn’t seem to stop Otis and the other boys from trying to get in her pants. (Also, if she had gone to school with them in the past, how is it no one besides Otis recognized her when she came back??)
“I, like most people, carried their damage on the inside. But Dara wore hers on her sleeve, literally.”
Dara used to be a very good swimmer until an accident left her an amputee. Since, she has pushed Otis to his limits because she wants him to be better than what he currently is (she wants him to be able to enter the Olympics). Dara is headstrong, careless and a little full of herself. Somehow those traits made her more likable. Other reviews I have read, agree that Dara is the most liked out of the other characters. For me, she was nice, but I didn’t care enough about her to finish the book.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the loss of a loved one. While I may not have lost a limb or known anyone close to me to have lost a limb, I get that it may be hard to deal with. I just didn’t like how it was portrayed in this book. It was supposed to be a “coming of age” story that dealt with pain and loss. What killed it was the way Otis talked. He was in a hormone-driven phase and it just wasn’t an ideal narrator.
I gave it a fair chance, I really did. It had a male point of view, there was a character missing her arm, several opportunities for LGBT romance and a good insight to how phantom limb pain occurs and affects the person. At one point, I thought “this is a good place for the book to end” then I remembered: I had three discs left! What else could possibly happen?
I listened to this book with audio CDs and I don’t even know why I picked it up. Had I seen it in hardback and knew it would never hold my interest.
I learned now that contemporary stories are definitely not for me. For someone else, they might enjoy it, but it’s not a genre that I can really get into.