Most helpful critical review
Wake Me Up When It's Over.
on July 6, 2002
If I had been given this book to read without knowing the author's name, and when finished, was told that she was Laurie R. King, I would not have believed it. I've experienced and appreciated her immense talent and versatility across several genres, but I can hear her brilliantly and deftly rendered Holmes snapping, "Good God, Russell, are you daft? Put that book down before it renders you unconscious!" In short, this was one of the most boring books I've ever read. Details are important in getting to know a character and what makes them tick, their passions, eccentricities, their psychology, and there is some of that, but not enough. Instead, Ms. King spends seemingly endless pages focusing closer and closer on the main character's craft of woodworking/sculpting-cum-housebuilding. After getting a little tidbit of character insight, the reader is then forced to read detailed descriptions of tools: what they are, their history, what they look like, how they feel, what they sound like, what they look like hanging from a belt, and so on. This method of extrapolation is extended to all aspects of whatever can be done with tools, guns, camping equipment, and even severe depression, on and on and on, until you get to the next tiny piece of succinct but well written detail that makes you think, "At last, we get to the real reason for being here!". This doesn't happen, at least for me. Taking a cue from the author's thanks to some "courageous individuals", whose struggles with mental illness she apparently tapped, her attempts to convey what it's like to be severely depressed sounds exactly as if she's writing, or rewriting, what someone tried to convey. As a psychotherapist, I've seen that this is pretty much next-to-impossible to do, as people struggling with such challenges also struggle with the fact that they can never quite explain what it's like to someone else. Hence, the attempt to instill the main character with convincing affect falls short. Maybe that was the author's intention.
Some reviewers like to describe this as "slow starting". This is true, but it never ends. I can compare it best to the scientific cliché that asks us to imagine taking all the space away between the molecules of say, a redwood tree, and you end up with a sliver of wood you can barely discern. Take away all this "filler" in this story, and you end up with characters as substantial as toothpicks.