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Longlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2011 Shortlisted Best Written Book Blog - 2010

The Raising – Book Review

“You can pretend you aren’t superstitious,” Professor Polson said. “You can imagine that you are not religious. You can be certain that you don’t believe in life after death, if that’s what you want. But, Perry, it doesn’t stop the fact that we are in a very strange position her. We humans. With such a clear knowledge of how it will end, and no idea what will happen afterward – just some symbols, some music, some stories to show us the way. – from The Raising, page 206 –

Craig arrives at Godwin’s Honor Hall, an elite organization within the larger University, without a care in the world. He knows he hasn’t earned his spot, like the rest of the kids there, but he isn’t worried about academics – its the partying that motivates him. Craig’s roommate Perry, on the other hand, is a serious perfectionist. Both boys are drawn to Nicole – a beautiful blond with a charming demeanor, a girl who is much more than what she appears. Then, one night, Craig and Nicole are involved in a car accident and Nicole is killed. The only witness is a middle-aged woman named Shelly, who is baffled when the newspapers report false information about what she has seen. No one seems willing to get Shelly’s side of the story – not the reporters or the police. And then, students begin to report that perhaps Nicole really is not gone altogether. Perhaps she is still walking around the University. Perhaps her sorority sisters know more than they are telling.

The Raising is a fast paced, intriguing literary mystery that explores our superstitions about death, and the collective hysteria that arises when the facts become blurred. Laura Kasischke structures the narrative in multiple points of view, weaving back and forth in time. As secrets begin to reveal themselves, the characters struggle with their own conflicts and identities. In fact, a strong theme of the book is that of identity and the setting (a college campus) is the perfect place to explore it. How much do people sacrifice themselves in order to fit in their chosen groups? What happens to one’s values when peer pressure exerts itself? In Kasischke’s capable hands, the novel turns on itself, making the reader wonder what is real and what is not.

“Like that’s not how it is with everybody? Like all the lesbians your age aren’t all trying to look and act alike? Like all the counter-culture kids, or all the conservatives, or all the professors or librarians or bookstore clerks around her aren’t, every one of them, completely interchangeable?” – from The Raising, page 363 –

One of the things I appreciated about The Raising, was the pitch perfect dialogue of youth, and Kasischke’s ironic sense of humor which captures perfectly the space between youth and maturity.

The day was getting colder. The sky, darker. It would be a matter of minutes, Mira felt certain, before the first blizzard of the year began in earnest – and, still there were boys crossing the street in short sleeves, girls in mini-dresses and tank tops. Was this vanity, ill-preparedness, or did their youth give them some sort of metabolic advantage in the cold? – from The Raising, page 285 –

The novel takes on a seductive, sexual quality as the characters try to unravel the mystery of Nicole. The setting itself becomes a character in the story giving the novel a sinister and Gothic feel. Some readers may be put off by the graphic descriptions in parts of this book – but I felt they were not gratuitous, instead adding to the flavor of the story and supporting the themes which Kasischke develops.

The Raising is a terrific book – good writing, fascinating characters and a plot which keeps the reader guessing. Readers who enjoy Gothic literature, mysteries, and a well-told story will like this one.

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FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

16 Comments

  1. April 13, 2011    

    I’ve read very mixed reviews of this book, but it does sound intriguing. I’m not sure I’d like it though, especially given the graphic descriptions…

  2. April 13, 2011    

    The reality of some scenes encourage me to have this book and read. I want ot figure out on my own the story of this but thanks for sharing though.

  3. April 13, 2011    

    I haven’t read a lot of Gothic lit, but keep hearing great things about this one so I’d like to give it a try.

  4. Amy Amy
    April 13, 2011    

    I recently finished this book and haven’t written my review yet. I’m sorry to say I didn’t like it as much as you did. I agree that it’s an intriguing literary mystery but I had problems with some of the characters and their side stories and a few other things. I enjoy the author’s writing style and liked the Professor as well as her field of study. Death and the rituals and beliefs surrounding it are very intersting.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Wendy. Thank you for a great review.

  5. April 13, 2011    

    I truly wanted to like this one but found it lacking. I thought the ending was trite and not even plausible. I felt foolish for even finishing it. Thank goodness that we all bring something different to our reading experiences right? Glad you enjoyed this one 😀

  6. April 13, 2011    

    Okay, that settles it…this one is going on my to-read list! I’ve read two opinions, besides yours, from two other bloggers whose opinions I respect. One was indifferent to the book and one was of your opinion. So you were the tie breaker! The author owes you an extra pat on the back. *L*

  7. April 14, 2011    

    I have read some not so flattering things about this book lately, so I am glad to come upon another opinion. I admit that this book sounds really interesting to me, and now that I know that you liked it, I am adding it back to my list. Thanks!

  8. April 14, 2011    

    Oh, I’m hoping this one will be my next read. Thanks for the review!

  9. April 14, 2011    

    Just started this book (so I can’t read your whole review!), and I am loving it. Glad to see that you liked it as well.

  10. April 14, 2011    

    I’ve heard of this book lately, great review, will have to add to my list.

  11. April 14, 2011    

    I couldn’t agree more! This book really is fantastic.

  12. April 14, 2011    

    New to me and sounds good also fast paced!

  13. April 15, 2011    

    Avis: I am not sure this one is for you either…I found it highly absorbing and entertaining…but I don’t think it will appeal to everyone.

    Janice: you’re welcome

    Kathy: I love gothic lit, if you haven’t tried it yet, I’d encourage you to 🙂

    Amy: I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did – I can see where it would not appeal to all readers.

    Staci: LOL – well, it is interesting to get everyone’s take on different books, isn’t it? I can see where suspending reality might be needed for this one – but at the end of the day, it entertained me and kept me reading, I got sucked in to the story…and sometimes that is all I care about when I’m reading!!! 🙂

    Michelle: Haha! I hope you love it. I can’t wait to see what you think!

    Heather (Zibilee): I didn’t read any reviews until after I’d written mine. I was a little surprised to see some of the negative feelings towards the book…on the other hand, I am not surprised that some found it difficult to read in that it challenges our beliefs, and the author sort of puts a spin on what we THINK happened. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

    Swapna: Oh, I’ll look for your review!

    Jennifer: Glad you’re loving it – look forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

    Mary Ann: Hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

    Heather (Book Addiction): So glad I finally got a commenter who agrees with me!! LOL!

    Mystica: Yes – fast paced!

  14. April 16, 2011    

    This sounds like a really interesting read although I have read a few mixed reviews on it. I’m definitely going to have to give it a try myself because it sounds like something that I would enjoy. Great review!

  15. April 24, 2011    

    This sounds SO good…I like the part about the setting becoming a “character in the story.”

    Very intriguing….

  16. April 30, 2011    

    Samantha: I hope you’ll enjoy the book!

    Laurel: …that’s what I really love about the gothic genre…hope you’ll find it as intriguing as I did!

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