We finally get to meet Denise, not just through her brothers' stories. And guess what, I don't hate her! I mean, she makes not the best choices, but I'm so happy that she is more like a Gary than a Chip. My standards have obviously been lowered.
I don't quite know why we needed the whole Robin bit in the beginning. Why is it important we learn so much about her and her family and where her money comes from? I get that we eventually get the connection to Denise because of the whole funding-her-restaurant-and-then-she-sleeps-with-both-Robin-and-Brian thing. But I don't see why that means we needed their whole back story. We don't even learn that much about Caroline, and she's actually a Lambert (through marriage, but still).
OK, so Denise. Why do we need to start with her as a teen? We just get Chip and Gary in the present but for Denise we first have to go through the Robin's-brother-is-an-asshole story. Then we see her as a teen and her first sexual encounter(s) before we can see her in the present and why? Is it because these are the things that defined her later, where for Gary and Chip it was more them as small children? And why are these the things that defined her later? Ugh Franzen, what are you trying to say?
And then Franzen, you really need to add sexual assault to her first time? Really? Things were creepy enough, what with Denise sleeping with one of her dad's co-workers (employees?) who's at least twice her age. Perhaps it's to make a connection to her mom and the rape scene we read last section? I don't really know what Franzen's saying here, but that's also because I'm not 100% sure he realizes he wrote two sexual assault scenes. Both options make me sad.
So we learn that Brian made lots and lots of money and they never have to work again, so he decides he's going to open his own restaurant and he hires Denise to be the chef. She gets to run the kitchen and make the decisions about the food and get paid way too much. And she gets to go to Europe for awhile to eat and be inspired. Look how good things are going for Denise? So obviously we know this won't last. At least I like that she's a cook. I know we already knew this from the earlier Chip & Gary chapters, but still. I'm just happy she's actually a cook and apparently a very good one. So see, Denise makes good decisions in one part of her life. Not so much with the trying to sleep with Brian stuff though. Of course, she seemed almost like she didn't want to do it. That she was going to have to. Not that Brian was forcing her but that that was what was expected based on the way he was acting and that's just how things work.
Let's talk about something happier. Brian and Robin's kids are annoying and pretentious. This is happier for me, because making fun of small, fictional children is fun. But seriously, "you be a pathogen...and I'll be a leukocyte" and no. No. Shut up.
I like that Denise was so focused at getting Robin to like her, not because she really wanted to be Robin's friend, but because she wanted to deny her the satisfaction of disliking her. All I could think was
Now you've lost both Robin and Brian AAAND the restaurant. Dammit. I knew that was going to happen.
And we learn that Alfred didn't die. Which...what? How?
Then there's some stuff about Chip and he was in Lithuania but now the country is falling apart and he's trying to get back to the States but doesn't really want to and blah blah blah. I tried to pay attention to this section, but really didn't care. Maybe Chip will end up just stuck at the airport in Lithuania. Or he'll be shot there. Whatever.
Sorry this was all over the place, but really, you know what you're getting into. Next week, we finish this thing! Will everyone stop being terrible? (Probably not.) Will Alfred be visited by more talking poo? (Thinking 50/50 chance.) Will Jonah find out he was actually adopted, and his real parents are loving and normal people who have come to take him back with him and give him lots of books to read? Also he's actually a wizard and he'll get to go to Hogwarts. But Hogwarts after the HP stories, so he doesn't have to deal with ever year of school getting ruined by Voldemort. I assume Jonah would appreciate really getting a full education. (Yeah, so this won't be happening, but oh man, how great would that be? You'd never see it coming. [Except if it does happen, I clearly just called it. I don't really know where I'm going with this, but it's been a long day.])
Till next week!
Title quote from page 377