Kramon, Justin. Finny. Random House, 2010. ISBN 978-0812980233 366 pp. $
Finny is a character study in the way that reminds me a little of This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn, in that it meanders through Finny’s story in a slice of life sort of way, as opposed to conflict/resolution.
The novel captures about 25? years of Finny’s life, first at home with her mother, nerd of a brother, and controlling father who likes to quote great thinkers and writers, until her brother tattles on the kiss she shares with the neighbor boy, a young man named Earl with whom she forges a fast and strong bond. Finny gets shipped off to boarding school, where she rooms with Judith and befriends the dorm mother in spite of, or maybe because of, a misguided prank.
Earl and Finny seem destined to not be together–after Finny returns home, Earl heads to Paris to reconnect with his mother, and even after a passionate reunion with Finny, feels too obligated to his mother to be with Finny.
When the narrative switches to post college, the pace speeds up, as Finny is just passing time–that section was short, but the “waiting for my real life to begin” tone was a realistic and compelling blend of pain and acceptance.
Throughout her adulthood, Finny struggles with navigating relationships with significant others, betrayal of friends, like getting along with siblings, and figuring out a career and place in the world. She’s an intensely likable character; in fact, ALL of the characters in the story are warm, quirky and flawed. One of the things that bothered me initially about the writing–describing a character as soon as s/he was introduced–bothered me less so as time went on, because it was consistent. And, I think Kramon did a pretty good job writing about a girl, for a boy.