The Feast of Love

Author: Charles Baxter
Year: 2000
Genre: Literary fiction

The concept of The Feast of Love is that a lot of different people are telling their personal love stories to the character Charlie Baxter. The stories, which intersect, deal with mostly ill-fated love for spouses, partners, children. I originally took the "author as narrator" thing to be a standard post-modern gimmick, but my fellow book club members convinced me that it does serve a purpose: it gives all the characters a reason to tell their story, leading the various narrators to be characters as well, each with their own motivation and point of view.

For the most part, I thought the characters were interesting and believable; I liked some of them, and disliked the ones I was supposed to dislike. The one exception was the teenage character, whose voice I found to be exaggerated and unconvincing. I thought this was something I could talk about with some authority, being a high school teacher, but my fellow book club members disagreed.

The love stories, as I said above, are ill-fated, but that's really what makes a story. Baxter deals with this fact specifically. As one character says after having found true love:

We do what you do in tandem when you belong together ... We fit together. (I avoid saying these things in public; people hate to hear it, as if I'd forced them to eat raw sugar.) There's nothing to talk about to strangers anymore, if you know what I mean. Everything I want to say, I want to say to her. Life has turned into what I once imagined it was supposed to be, as complacent and awful as that sounds. In fact, I don't really want to talk about this anymore. As the poet says, all happy couples are alike, it's the unhappy ones who create the stories.

I'm no longer a story. Happiness has made me fade into real life.

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