So, I just had the awkward experience of excitedly buying my first lesbian fictional novel in years, Meredith Maran's A Theory of Small Earthquakes, only to find that it has perhaps the most unlikable protagonist I've met in a long time.
The premise of this book is that the protagonist goes to college, is lonely, has a crappy family life, and ends up meeting and falling in love with another female student. Who she met in a Women's Studies course. Taught by a caricature of a radical feminist lesbian and attended by other caricatures of radical feminists. Who she makes fun of.
But I digress, the main plot is that the protagonist and her girlfriend stay together for many years and then *spoiler alert* (is it a spoiler alert if the following Big Plot Reveal is explicitly stated within the Amazon summary of the book?) the protagonist cheats on her partner with a man, promptly has a baby with him, and ends up leaving the Lesbian Lifestyle specifically so she can have a more Normal Life (and why does living as a gay person always constitute living a "lifestyle," but those who live in heterosexual relationships are making a "life"?).
Anyway, so the premise of such a book is fine. Women leaving women for men, women leaving men for women- whatever, it all happens in real life and portraying that is fine.
What I found unlikable about the protagonist wasn't that she left her partner for a man, but that she took so many actions and had so many thoughts throughout the book that were incredibly homophobic, ashamed, anti-feminist, entitled, and self-centered. So much so that I consciously found myself rooting against her and rooting for all of the people she was hurting throughout the book-- her former partner, her boyfriend, and her child.
So, I guess this is more of an open thread.
What does one do when one reads a book that centers around such an unlikable character? Continue reading the book? I did, and finished it! But that's mostly because I'm stubborn and persistent, not because I felt super compelled to Find Out What Happens. In fact, by the time *spoiler alert* the protagonist had convinced her ex-girlfriend to risk her health and become a surrogate for protagonist and her boyfriend, I cringed my way through the book with a "what the hell is she going to do next?" attitude.