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33 Reviews
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5.0 out of 5 stars She's done it again!
I've read both short story books by A.M. Homes and loved them. This is the first novel I've read by her, and I loved it. I couldn't put this book down. I never knew what crazy thing was going to happen next. I could relate to alot of Elaine's feelings regarding her life.
Published on July 18 2004

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Giving Her Another Chance
The first novel I read by her was "The End Of Alice". I read it about seven years ago or so & swore I wouldn't read her again. (In fact, I couldn't even finish the book before I threw it out, considering to burn it!) But alas, my curiosity took over & here again, I am.
OK, I could get through this. It wasn't draw-dropping shocking to me as...
Published on May 20 2004 by Leigh A. Taft


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5.0 out of 5 stars She's done it again!, July 18 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
I've read both short story books by A.M. Homes and loved them. This is the first novel I've read by her, and I loved it. I couldn't put this book down. I never knew what crazy thing was going to happen next. I could relate to alot of Elaine's feelings regarding her life.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Torch This Book, June 6 2004
By 
Arch Stanton (Bondurant, WY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
Wow, what a clunker. Unimaginative and filled with the cliches of modern life in the cul de sac, where all children all sullen, all housewives lead lives of pill-fueled quiet desperation, and all husbands play hide the pickle with soccer moms.
I could forgive the hackneyed themes if the writing itself were masterful but it wheezes along with the grace and wit of an upper-level land grant university literary seminar. The best thing about this book is that its memory won't linger with me for any longer than it takes for me to toss it in the dumpster.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Giving Her Another Chance, May 20 2004
By 
Leigh A. Taft (Mobile, AL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
The first novel I read by her was "The End Of Alice". I read it about seven years ago or so & swore I wouldn't read her again. (In fact, I couldn't even finish the book before I threw it out, considering to burn it!) But alas, my curiosity took over & here again, I am.
OK, I could get through this. It wasn't draw-dropping shocking to me as "...Alice", but interesting to say the least. My favorite thing about this book was its vast array of flawed characters. Yes, I was grinning & laughing at times at the hilarity of it all. Probably more because of how this story mocked ordinary, american life. I don't think any of us can read this & not be able to relate to it on some level.
I only gave it three stars mostly because of the end. I closed the book feeling down, depressed, & in need of a good scrubbing of my mind.
Then again, I surmise this is exactly what Holmes wants to achieve from this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read, Jan. 20 2004
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
In A. M. Homes book MUSIC FOR TORCHING, we follow the lives of the married couple Elaine and Paul. An unhappy family living in suburbia. hey decide to push over their barbecue and it burns down their house. Their friends George and Pat invite them to live with them, while they renovate the house. Elaine puts her energy into restoring the house, all while struggling with her marriage with Paul and trying to raise her kids. Paul is having affairs with different women, and unhappy with Elaine. They do not know if they love each other anymore. There was quite a few twists and turns in the book, some were shocking, others were just strange, but I really got absolved into the book. The book was surprisingly good. The book doesn't have your typical happy ending, everything's gonna be alright type attitude. You don't even feel like you should be sorry for these characters, or that they are trying to make you respect their decisions. It is what it is, and that's it. Just honest truth. A pretty good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Painfully funny and painfully tragic., Dec 11 2003
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
A. M. Homes, Music for Torching (Morrow, 1999)
To play devil's advocate, it would be hard for any author to reproduce the sheer unadulterated evil that reverberates through A. M. Homes' wonderful novel The End of Alice. I shouldn't expect it of anyone. Yet my second trip into the delightfully twisted world of Ms. Homes came with just such expectations. She subverted them by giving birth to something so completely unlike The End of Alice that halfway through this, I'd tossed the comparisons to the wind and was just having fun hanging on for the ride.
Paul and Elaine are your typical, everyday American middle-class suburban couple. Or so we think. Then, on impulse, they set fire to their house as part of a new beginning to their lives. From there, we get to meet the rest of the neighborhood and see their reactions to the supposed tragedy. The result is a savagely funny skewering of American suburban life that's too disgusting not to be accurate.
Perhaps the best way to describe this novel is "Peyton Place on crack." Everyone's sleeping with everyone else, the Stepford wives' porcelain skin is cracking under the stress, everyone's using entirely too many drugs, Paul's incompetence at work is richly rewarded, you get the idea. Everything is going along rollickingly, and we're laughing along, guilty and embarrassed that we find this stuff funny, and all in all it looked like your typical three-star novel; readable, predictable, but good enough to recommend. Then comes the last few pages, where Homes throws a curveball that fits in with the story in every way possible, but turns the tragicomedy on its head. The sucker punch is so skillful that it raises estimation for the entire book.
Sick, twisted, and not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, but those who found themselves in love with The End of Alice or The Safety of Objects (where Paul and Elaine first show up; that story is referred to here a number of times) are going to find much to adore in Music for Torching. ****
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pain and Ennui, But Removed and Dulled, Aug. 20 2003
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
I was looking forward to the American Beauty aspect I heard this book contained, having loved the sharp comedy and bitter pain of the movie. I also respect A.M. Homes and her other work (The End of Alice, The Safety of Objects). As the main characters, Elaine and Paul, the embodiment of suburbia, started off on a bad foot and got even worse, I became enraged with them. They're just shuffling through life. This book was completely depressing, but I couldn't stop myself from reading it. The characters were well-defined in their pathetic misdirection, but they kept miring me deeper and deeper into their ennui. The book actually started affecting me and making me feel unhappy and flat. I was glad to be done reading it and on to something more emotionally charged. The book made me feel, but I didn't like what I felt. Both Paul and Elaine are weak characters, and I felt sorry for their children, adrift with parents who are more childish than they. The end of the book reinforced my feelings-that when adults are lost, it's the children who suffer the results. At least people used to put up a farce for their kids. Now, they do well if they can find a way to forget about it for an hour or two, whatever that takes or costs.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Kinda bland., May 26 2003
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
This book dramatizes what happens when you realize that your life has been slowly creeping up to smother you. I'm still not sure if I am disliking this book because it is dark but without other rewards (e.g. supple prose, delicious epiphany) or if it has done it's job with unlikeable, miserable characters that you'd like to give a good shake. They all seem so stagnant that the author, at a loss for a conclusion, seemed to throw a big movie-of-the-week finale on the end. That, I am sure I did not like. Then again, was I supposed to take the ending with a big wink-wink? I like that even less. This book wasn't painful, but it wasn't a depressing delight either.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, disturbing and funny as hell, April 17 2003
By 
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
I am completly in love with A.M. Homes. You should keep this in mind for this review. This book chronicles a brief period in the marriage of Paul and Elaine. It is a story of their spiraling downward and it is amazing, breathtaking and darkly funny. I am myself a huge fan of dark comedies and if your sense of humor is not sick and twisted, I would not suggest Music for Torching but for any and all who love dark comedies, irony and satire, this is the one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Inert and uninvolving, April 1 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
The meandering story neither progresses nor entertains. While I found the emotions and of the characters credible, their behavior seemed inexplicable in their extremity and unexpectedness. This is not a book I'd recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Running On Empty, Jan. 24 2003
By 
Bucherwurm "bucherwurm" (California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Music For Torching (Paperback)
The Friday night party is over and the drunken host and hostess begin yet another spat. The host is secretly pleased because the date of one of their male friends has slipped him her phone number.
All this happens on the first two pages, and my immediate thought is oh, no, not another novel about a decaying, suburban marriage. Well, actually, it is another novel about a decaying, suburban marriage, but the good news, the saving grace of it all, is that it is quite hilarious.
The couple, Paul and Elaine, are totally out of spiritual fuel. Their exasperation with their lives is manifested when, on sudden impulse during a barbecue, they use lighter fluid to spread flames from the grill to the outside of their house. They make a quick departure, and return several hours later to find the house damaged but still standing. While repairs are made they stay with friends who seem to be from another planet. They farm out their two boys to other couples, and then, to fill in the dead spots in their lives, they engage in affairs. Elaine tries out lesbianism, while Paul spends time, much time, with two women acquaintances.
Every day Paul goes into work determined to have the most productive day imaginable, and every day he spends his office hours doing next to nothing. Well I shouldn't say he is completely inert. He does go out for long lunches and bed sessions with a woman known only as "The Date". He also gets tattooed in a nether region of his anatomy. Elaine lunches with a vocational counselor to see if some form of education would start her on a course of rejuvenation. But these flailing gestures do not bring peace and happiness to our weary couple.
The novel mocks not only the suburban couple, but also the suburban community of friends, and the workplace. It is a sad story that is loaded with black humor. The ending is just sad - and rather bizarre. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul and Elaine are riding on the edge of clinical depression. Does author Homes save them or do she push them over the edge?
Ms. Homes is an extremely talented writer who can take this rather overdone plot concept, and make it a delightful read. Hmmm. Why do I think a novel on marital disaster is delightful? Why do I chuckle at people who are desperate and depressed? Am I running on empty?
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Music For Torching
Music For Torching by A Homes (Paperback - March 23 2000)
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