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Larry's Party by Carol Shields
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Larry's Party (1997)

by Carol Shields

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,601334,539 (3.61)1 / 154
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Larry Weller is 26 and single when we meet him in the first chapter. We follow Larry through two marriages, fatherhood, and a career in horticulture in the next two decades. The chapters provide snapshots of Larry's life at various points on the continuum between 1977 and 1997, with each chapter focusing on a particular aspect of his life (love, family, work, friends, etc.).

The other two novels I've read by this author (The Stone Diaries and Unless) are about women's agency. I was curious to see what she would do with men. Larry isn't an alpha male. He's successful, yet he doesn't have a clear purpose for his life. Things work out for Larry, though. He finds a way to earn a living by doing what he loves – designing mazes. The women in Larry's life have stronger personalities, and they all upstage him whenever he's with them in the pages of his story.

When Larry met his second wife, Beth, she was working on a doctoral thesis on “women saints and the nature of feminine goodness.” Goodness is a theme of Shields's later novel, Unless. The central character in The Stone Diaries bears the name Goodwill. It might be interesting to trace this theme through Shields's body of work. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 5, 2017 |
Pleasant enough, like the title character Larry, I suppose, but while it tries to touch on this or that 'big topic' it does so only out of obligation and never makes anything of it. Larry is not engaging enough to care about and none of the other characters are developed at all, since they flit in and out of the narrative, so there's really no here here. The structure is interesting - were these originally free-standing short stories? - but nothing useful is made of it so eventually it just becomes a bit frustrating to have to read through a recapitulation of the story so far each time a new chapter begins. That device could have been used to add a lot more depth to the story but it was not. A harmless read, and though the time is pleasantly spent you'll come away from it with nothing.
  TBergen | Apr 2, 2017 |
An episodic accounting of a man's life, one instilled by past family tragedies, in which he makes an unlikely, diverting, way in business while experiencing the pitfalls of love. Her writing is smooth, and she uses an interesting method of reframing memories as the years (chapters) accumulate. Ultimately though, I found the story a bit trite, the characters too self-centered, the insistent occupation with sex an annoyance. Maybe I'm weary of the self-indulgent motif. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Dec 4, 2016 |
An interestingly constructed book. It starts with a chapter about a florist called Larry, then one about Larry and his wife, then about his family, and so on, spreading wider and progressing through the years. An unexpected but satisfying conclusion. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Some interesting parts Bit slow. Maybe some editing would have been a good idea ( )
  shazjhb | Jul 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carol Shieldsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dijk, Edith vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
What is this mightly labyrinth-- the earth, but a wild maze the moment of our birth.

- "Reflections on walking in the maze at Hampton Court" British Magazine, 1747
Dedication
For Joseph, Nicholas, and Sofia
First words
By mistake Larry Weller took someone else's Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn't till he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140266771, Paperback)

Larry Weller is a regular guy, or so Carol Shields has him think. When we first meet him in 1977 Winnipeg at age 26, he's pondering the pluses of Harris tweed, still living at home, and realizing he's in love with his girlfriend, Dorrie, a flinty car saleswoman. Larry is proud of his job at Flowerfolks, even though he fell into floral design by accident, and if his relationship with his parents isn't perfect, it's not too bad, either. (Stu and Flo Weller may have less page-time in Larry's Party, but they are hugely memorable. He is a master upholsterer, happiest when working; she is a woman ruined by nervous guilt, having inadvertently killed off her mother-in-law with some improperly preserved green beans.)

Carol Shields has said that she had "always been struck by the fact that in most novels people aren't working." Though her hero climbs the floral managerial trellis for 17 years and finds more rhapsody in work than marriage, Larry and Dorrie's honeymoon in England points him toward what will be his true vocation--mazes. These living constructs turn him into a thinker, a man of imagination, and the author's descriptions are quietly spectacular as well as effortlessly sweet. Larry wonders at their "teasing elegance and circularity ... a snail, a scribble, a doodle on the earth's skin with no other directed purpose but to wind its sinuous way around itself." Just as Larry changes with the times--each elliptical chapter ages him by one or two years--so does his art. In 1990, he designs a maze in which you can't really lose yourself. In 1997, the McCord Maze "is intended to mirror the descent into unconscious sleep, followed by a slow awakening." Larry, too, has a slow awakening, taking several false turns before reaching midlife. As the novel closes, with a bravura dinner party scene, he may finally be at ease in the world. But his creator knows that he is only halfway there, and still has to negotiate his way from the center of the maze to its exit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The San Diego Tribune called The Stone Diaries a "universal study of what makes women tick." With Larry's Party Carol Shields has done the same for men. Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony, and tenderness. Larry's Party gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997, that seamlessly flash backward and forward. We follow this young floral designer through two marriages and divorces, and his interactions with his parents, friends, and a son. Throughout, we witness his deepening passion for garden mazes--so like life, with their teasing treachery and promise of reward. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties, and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search for self. Larry's odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy, and faultless wisdom. --Publisher.… (more)

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