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home : art & life : art & life June 25, 2016

10/9/2013 4:11:00 PM
'The Interestings'
By Sue Brooke

‘The Interestings’ by Meg Wolitzer is a story about six teenage friends back in the 1970s who attended  Spirit-in-the-Lakesummer camp for artistically talented children when Watergate was in full swing. 

These friends, Ethan Figman, Goodman Wolf, Jonah Bay, Julie Jacobson, Ash Wolf and Cathy Kiplinger, called themselves “The Interestings,” sure that wonderful and interesting things were going to happen to them.   

For Julie especially, the camp was a life-changing experience. She had always felt like an outsider before – like no one really understood her. Her father had just died, leaving her home dark and depressing. At camp Julie was somehow included even though she was there on scholarship.  Ash becomes her best friend. To Julie, Ash and her brother, Goodman, seem to have everything. They are both very good-looking with loving, rich parents. The siblings have talent and, most amazingly, they like Julie, whom they immediately rename Jules.

Spanning the 40 years from summer camp to the characters’ mid-50s, this story captures the decades as the group grows from teenage campers to mature adults. The author looks at the choices they made and the things life handed them. Jules and Ash Wolf remain best friends even as their lives take dramatically different turns. Ash marries Ethan Figman who, as an animator, becomes highly successful. Jules, on the other hand, cannot make it in acting and ends up becoming a therapist. She marries someone outside the group, whom she loves, but Dennis is an ultrasound technician and neither of them is ever going to make enough money. Jules once again looks at her life in comparison to the life Ash is living, as Ash and Ethan jet around the world with the beautiful people.

In one way or another, these characters are part of some of the most important events of  the latter part of the 20th century. In “The Interestings,” the author looks at talent, envy and the roles of class, art and money through the lives of these
six friends over the decades.

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