19 November 2014

Peep Show by Joshua Braff

Okay, this was interesting. I don't even remember at what point I added this to my library list, but I decided it was high time I actually read it. I reminded myself what it was about from the book jacket cover: 17-year-old David's parents are divorced. His mother has converted to Hasidic Judaism, while his father is areligious (though one could argue, still culturally Jewish) and runs a burlesque in Times Square in the 1970s, just as live peep shows and adult films are edging out the old burlesques.

PEEP SHOW was told from David's perspective, and while that makes it sound like a YA novel, after finishing I have to say it was as much a YA novel as EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE was a MG novel. Rather than focusing on David's experiences growing up, PEEP SHOW seemed to me focused on the relationship of David's parents, their destructive tendencies towards each other and their children, as seen through David's lens (both the metaphorical one and the literal one - he's a photographer).

We saw David's relationship with his mother implode as he rejected Hasidism, a rejection his mother took personally, and as she saw him as siding with his father. PEEP SHOW was full of the kind of parental selfishness that makes you crazy. You wonder how they can be so full of themselves and ignore their kids like that - and yet, you know it's totally realistic, that people are that selfish, that they do inflict that amount of harm on their children.

PEEP SHOW was named not only for the peep shows David's dad was forced to install in his theater. It was also named for the private glimpses into a family that was crumbling; into the inner lives of two parents, and the secret histories they kept from their children and, ultimately, from themselves; and for the unique understanding you can get about someone when they think they are hidden by a veil.

One chapter in, I wasn't sure if I'd like PEEP SHOW. But the second chapter drew me in (far more than the first), and I actually read it really quickly. I rather enjoyed it.