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To Feel Stuff by Andrea Seigel

To Feel Stuff

by Andrea Seigel

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First love, medical complications, resistance to becoming one's parents, finding oneself, and a dash of the supernatural for good measure. About what you'd expect from a 26-year-old author in terms of the romance and college-student fears (particularly the becoming-one's-mother sort of thing), and the ending lacks the emotional punch of Like the Red Panda. Not great, not terrible. ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 29, 2013 |
I was incredibly excited to read this, because I loved the author’s first novel, Like the Red Panda. This has the same sort of feel– deeply cynical narrator in a situation like a dark, twisted mirror version of your normal chick lit “girl meets boy,” careening towards an ending you’re almost sure will have more bitter than sweet. In Like the Red Panda, the main character was a so-called “perfect” student about to graduate from high school and go to a great college. Over the summer, she has problem with her foster parents, her friends, and gets back together with her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend she’s still sort of in love with. The snag? Well, she’s planning to kill herself. And no, it’s not that kind of novel. It’s snarky, it’s funny and at its best it isn’t so much sad as painful. So, you know, To Feel Stuff had a pretty high standard to rise up to.

And it did, for the most part. The similarities between the two novels are in sensibility and feel, not in plot (which is good) and therefore retained a lot of what made me love Like the Red Panda. The darkly cynical main character in To Feel Stuff is Elodie, a chronically ill student at Brown, so sick that she’s had to start living in the campus infirmary just to finish the school year. She’s not sick with anything specific—just a dozen different diseases of varying seriousness that it’s statistically impossible she could have contracted at the same time. And she’s seeing ghosts. A doctor interested in the medical mystery of her serial illnesses narrates part of the story as well, and is gradually convinced that her ghost-sightings are connected to her illnesses. The third narrative strand is completed by Chester, a wealthy, a-cappella singing jock anyone who’s spent any length of time at an ivy league institution would recognize. His life is changed dramatically when a random attacker smashes his knees with a crowbar, and he has to live in the infirmary as well. The romance between the two of them is incredibly deft and nuanced. At its best, this novel evokes the profoud ways that illness and injury, by removing the physical capabilities most of us take for granted, changes one’s perspective. It’s clear that neither Elodie nor Chester could have fallen in love had they met as their previously healthy selves. It required the strange world-apart of illness and the infirmary to bring them together.

The ending was bizarrely pat for such a subtle, nuanced story, however. It kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Like the Red Panda is better, but To Feel Stuff is still a great book. ( )
  utsusemia | Mar 9, 2008 |
Erm. Not sure what to say. The beginning was a bit off-putting. The doctor's narrative was never convincing for me -- Ms. Seigel is much more comfortable with the dead-pan dialogue of the college kids. As with Panda, she makes use of what I can only describe as "self-consciously unconscious" prose (Or do I mean unconsciously self-conscious?), and that's okay, as far as it goes. Where it trips up, though, is that the two college kids wind up sounding exactly the same. They both employ this odd hyper-post-ironic imagery all the time -- in one character, it comes across as quirky. In two, it starts to feel like an alternate universe.

I will say this for the book: it never made me wince, as many books have been doing recently. I hate wincing. ( )
  amydross | Aug 6, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031507, Paperback)

Meet Elodie Harrington, college student and medical anomaly. From chicken pox to tuberculosis, Elodie suffers such a frequent barrage of illnesses that she moves into the Brown University infirmary. When charismatic Chess Hunter enters the infirmary with two smashed knees, he and Elodie begin an intense affair, but Chess is only a visitor to Elodie's perpetual state of medical siege. As he heals, he moves back to his former life. Elodie heads in the other direction and begins to see a ghost. When Professor Mark Kirschling, M.D., gets wind of Elodie, he's convinced he can make his professional mark by cracking her case but he's entirely unprepared for what he's about to encounter.

Andrea Seigel has found a wry, ingenious way to explore the contrast between the first frisson of mortality and a life lived in defiance of it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

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