Park doesn’t think much of Eleanor when he first sees her on the school bus. And Eleanor doesn’t think much of Park when she’s forced to sit next to him either…
Wow. That was something else.
Where to start with E&P? I’d start with the ending, but to do so would feel like a major spoiler, and it’s not something I want to spoil for anyone, even by dropping it under the safety of hidden text. Just read the book for yourself, then we’ll talk about the ending.
I wanted to talk about the ending so much when I finished it, I wanted to bother my book-buddy friend on a Sunday night when she probably had better things to do. I would have asked my wife about it, but she’d have to read it first, and I didn’t want to wait that long.
But enough ending-related vagueness. What can I tell you about this book?
The simplicity of the writing pulls you in and along for the ride. The sentence structure is simple, almost an elementary level. But those simple sentences have complex themes poured into them. It’s like minimalism for writing; all the power is underneath the words. It drags you down the page and pulls you through the book.
There are no easy answers to the questions asked around the edges of this story. Eleanor is pushed into hard and uncomfortable shapes by the world she lives in. She cares deeply for her brothers and sisters, but finds she can’t drown with them and she can only save herself when the waters close over her head. Park, by comparison, seems to have life easy, but there are undercurrents to his life that make his footing less secure than it seems.
I liked the additional complexity of having it set in 1986 as well. Eleanor can’t simply reach into a back pocket and call 911, any more than she can call Park. He’s only a few blocks away, but it might as well be miles.
And how lost Park is without Eleanor, the music gone from his life both metaphorically and literally. The songs he’s never going to be able to listen to again. Ah, man.
I loved the way this book made me remember how it all felt. It mirrors our “first times” so perfectly and makes us ache for everything to be new again, for the first touch of a hand in ours.
(Falling asleep listening to your love on the phone, the conversations about nothing that mean everything. The first time you ever made someone a mix tape. Yeah, I’m that old I can remember doing those: The careful selection and editing, the struggle to get everything to fit onto a 90 minute space. Trying to squeeze your personality down to thirty songs. Even though I didn’t get there until I met my wife - my own Eleanor in style and bearing if not by name - until ten years later than Park, I still went through it all.)
I was almost blubbering and had to stop sometimes when I was reading this, because it’s so fragile, what Eleanor and Park have.
I felt like I would break it by looking at it for too long, and that would make my heart ache for its lost beauty.
It's wonderful to watch these two fall for the first time, as we have all fallen. And in watching, we remember when they were us.