I would like to say a huge thank you to Riverrun Books for very kindly sending me a copy of Love Orange and for having me along on the Buddy Read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was great getting to know the other bloggers on twitter and chatting all about this brilliant book.
The blurb …
Jenny Tinkley lives to mother her two complicated sons and prop up her technology obsessive husband Hank, who has installed gadgets, cameras and voice recognition devices in their smart house. When she hears of an outreach opportunity at her church, she feels that hand-writing letters to John, inmate 6587 at Flainton Correctional Facility, will be an antidote to her high-tech isolation.
Letter by letter John pinches Jenny awake from the marshmallow numbness of her life. In their exchanges she expresses tenderness, unexpected affection. Constantly under surveillance, their letters chart a secret rebellion, a bid for freedom. But Jenny is becoming curiously dependent on the sweet orange glue that seals John’s envelopes and their lives begin to converge with toxic consequences.
Love Orange explores the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity and the epidemic of opioid addiction in American society.
My review …
In Love Orange we are introduced to the dysfunctional and fascinating Tinkley family; Jenny, Hank and their sons, Jesse and Luke and I enjoyed getting to know all about them enormously.
Hank is a brilliant character even though most of his actions and opinions infuriated me. He’s a paranoid, anxious technophile who, emboldened by his viking heritage, is obsessed with his masculinity and teaching his boys how to be ‘real men’ whether they like it or not.
Meanwhile, thirteen-year-old Jesse’s use of technology is becoming problematic, whilst the youngest of the family, inquisitive and misunderstood, eight-year-old Luke, is left to his own devices in his basement play room.
Jenny is lonely, frustrated and disconnected from her husband. It speaks volumes about her relationship with him that she gains more comfort and understanding from her correspondence with John, her prisoner penpal, than she does from Hank. She feels trapped and undermined by the ‘smart home’ that Hank has created and she resents the way that technology has taken over their lives – even their church has a smartphone. That is until she becomes curious about the sweet orange substance that John has used to seal his envelopes, whereupon her life takes a drastic change in direction and the story delves deeper into themes of addiction and imprisonment.
It is testament to the author’s incredible talent that she has produced a work of literary fiction covering many complex issues, that is not only highly readable and relatable, but also very amusing. So many of Jenny’s feelings and fears resonated with me as a mother, and the descriptions of the minutiae of family life and the characters’ inner ponderings were brilliant.
Love Orange is a modern, original, powerful and thought provoking story that I didn’t want to end and I already want to read it all over again – I loved every page!
About the author …
Natasha Randall is a literary translator whose translations include Notes from an Underground by Dostoyevsky, A Hero of Our Time by Lermontov, and We by Zamyatin. She has edited a volume of Gogol for Riverrun, Quercus. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the TLS, LA Review and the NYT. She lives in London with her husband and young children.