Most of Carol Shields work that I've read can be described as "women's fiction", meaning that the protagonists are women. Larry's Party is a not unpleasant change from the norm.
Larry's Party follows Larry Weller through twenty years of his life (1977-1997). These are some pretty important years. Larry is married twice, has a kid, moves to another country, and finds his life's work. He starts the novel a young guy, twenty-six years old, and ready to take on the world. He's got a good job as a florist in a high end flower shop and a pretty girlfriend.
Next time we see Larry he's a newlywed to Dorrie who's also pregnant. They're on their honeymoon in England and Larry's about to find the love of his life: mazes. Hedgemazes to be precise. He becomes obsessed with growing his own in the front yard of their Winnipeg home. Although his obsession ruins his marriage, it leads to greater life changes for Larry. He leaves the flower shop, moves to Chicago and builds mazes for a living.
Larry's Party is the title of the last chapter. He plans a dinner party for his friends, new girlfriend and two ex-wives. It could be a success or a total disaster. A main theme in the book is the maze and by the end we see the significance, "And where you start from, there you end."
Larry just kind of bobs along in life; accidents here and there change his destiny. Throughout the book he complains of being ordinary. Maybe he is just a regular guy, but I don't know why he complains so much. He's got one of the most interesting jobs I've ever heard of and he loves what he does. A lot of people aren't that lucky. I think we all have those days though. Recently, I woke up and thought of all the usual things I had to do and didn't want to do them. I was bored. Then I thought, "Well, one of us could be sick, out of work, getting a divorce. That wouldn't be the usual but it would suck." I got up and stopped complaining. Ordinary is fine.
It's an interesting book. Told in the third person, Shields' smart-assiness shines through every word. I'm sure most of the metaphors went right over my head but I felt I was understanding the message even if I can't express it in words. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading. I can't say I loved it as much as The Stone Diaries but I did enjoy it. It's an interesting look at men at the end of the Twentieth Century.
Book 3 for The Canadian Book Challenge.