Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Our family histories are simply stories. They are myths we create about the people who came before us, in order to make sense of ourselves.”

Spanning multiple decades, Malibu Rising tells the story of the Riva family. The Riva family consists of the legendary singer, Mick Riva, their mom, June Riva and their 4 children – Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit. The story begins in 1983 on the day of the annual Riva end of summer party. This is the party that has no rules. No invites, no structure just word of mouth and people show up and let out all their inhibitions and have a good time. Every famous and non-famous person wants to be there.

By now, the Riva children are not in contact with their father anymore, their mother is dead and they are all famous in their own rights. They are all coming to the party with their own secrets. Nina’s famous tennis player husband has just publicly left her, Jay and Hud have secrets that they need to share with each other and Kit has her own private realization that she is trying to confirm. The book fills us in on all the backstory of each member of the Riva family while building up to the explosive end of the party.

“Alcoholism is a disease with many faces, and some of them look beautiful.”

I have written before, that Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors. I do think it’s really hard to miss with a TJR novel because the woman knows how to not only tell a story but create a world that feels so real. It’s very easy to read a TJR novel and forget that it is not a true story. Another thing about TJR is that she is so versatile that no two books of hers are quite exactly the same and she is not put in a corner when it comes to her writing style.

I was not disappointed by this book. I kept wanting to see what would happen and finished the book in three days, which is unusual for me. As mentioned earlier, this book spanned multiple decades and inevitably had to jump back and forth through the present (day of the party) and the past. In the present, it was heavy on the anticipation of what was to come and the culmination of the party and the secrets held by the Rivas. And in the past, TJR tells us in chronological order, how the Riva family came to be. Starting from how Mick and June met, his rise to fame, the struggles encountered and decisions made along the way.

“Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is is the temptation of reliving their mistakes. Maybe, try as we might, we will never be able to outrun the blood that runs through our veins. Or. Or maybe we are free the moment we are born. Maybe everything we’ve even done is by our own hands.”

I marveled how this book was a balance of an easy fun read but was also a book that had you questioning the age old Nature vs. Nurture question as the Riva children despite good intentions find themselves making the same mistakes made by their parents and have them wondering if they were inevitably destined to make these mistakes because people tend to mimic what they grew up around or because it is their DNA? I also enjoyed the close relationship all the siblings had with each other.

While one of the things I liked was the crescendo approach that TJR built I’d be remiss not to mention that I thought the final culmination was kind of a let down and I thought it was all over the place. I don’t always need endings to be wrapped up in a bow but unless there is a plan for a sequel to this, I found it quite haphazard and it felt like loose threads galore. It all felt like the ending of a movie where the viewer could interpret their own ending. There was so much happening without enough context. Also, adding stories of brand new characters we had no attachment to previously seemed like frivolous fillers.

It wasn’t enough to stop my enjoyment of the book because the journey truly was a fun enough ride for me to forgive the destination. For those who have read another of TJR’s books, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (recommended read), you may recognize that Mick Riva was one of her seven husbands and that was a fun crossover to read. I gave this book 4 stars and would recommend this for your summer reading list.

Taynement

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