At the same time, there's nothing especially wonderful about the book, either. Like so many contemporary literary novels, Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking capitalizes on the cliched idea that less is more. It's very popular these days. Writers seem to believe that their work will be better if it's vague. Interesting, but unfinished. Filled with oh-so-deep teasers, no answers. The idea being that if you crave answers, you identify yourself as a member of the lower literary class.
Personally, I'm not falling for it.
The plot of Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking is essentially as follows: A teen named Miranda grows up on an isolated island in Maine with her professor father, a hermit type, who spends most of his time drinking and translating Ovid's Metamorphosis. Her mother is absent -- killed in a supposed boating accident when Miranda was a little girl. (Or did she commit suicide?) They have a mainland fisherman friend who takes on most of Miranda's rearing and seems to have had a relationship with her father. (But did he?) Miranada eventually goes to New York and learns about her father's history pre-island. She also embarks on two relationships (one with a man, one with a woman... but is she gay?) Was her father gay? What really happened to her mother? How's it all going to work out?
Who knows? In finished the book and I still don't know. And I know that even asking these questions means I'm missing the point. The book is about lonliness and family, not answers. Nonetheless, while the book was smart, even touching at times, without answers (which are harder to write than questions), it was ultumately unsatisfying.