by Justin Kramon


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Justin Kramon’s debut novel, Finny, is a sweeping, enchanting voyage, an insightful story about a young woman’s complicated path to adulthood.
We meet Finny Short as an observant, defiant fourteen-year-old who can’t make sense of her family’s unusual habits: Her mother offers guidance appropriate for a forty-year-old socialite; her father quotes Nietzsche over pancakes. Finny figures she’s stuck with this lonely lot until she meets Earl Henckel, a boy who comes from an even stranger place than she does. Unhappy with Finny’s budding romance with Earl, her parents ship her off to Thorndon boarding school. But mischief follows Finny as she befriends New York heiress Judith Turngate, a girl whose charm belies a disquieting reckless streak.

Finny’s relationships with Earl and Judith open her up to dizzying possibilities of love and loss and propel her into a remarkable adventure spanning twenty years and two continents. Justin Kramon has given us a wickedly funny odyssey with a moving and original love story at its core. Finny introduces us to an unforgettable heroine, a charmingly intricate world, and an uncommonly entertaining and gifted young novelist.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812980233
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/13/2010
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 8.06(w) x 5.32(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Justin Kramon has published stories in Glimmer Train, Story Quarterly, Boulevard, Fence, TriQuarterly, and others.  He has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation.  He teaches at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City and at the Iowa Young Writers’ Workshop.  Now twenty-nine years old, he lives in Philadelphia.

Read an Excerpt


A Novel
By Justin Kramon

Random House Trade Paperbacks

Copyright © 2010 Justin Kramon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780812980233

Chapter One

Finny Meets a Boy

She started out life as Delphine, named by her father for the city where the Greek oracle was from, but she’d always had an independent mind about things like names, so she’d gone by Finny ever since she was old enough to choose. It sounded Irish, which went with her dashing red hair, and in any case Finny always liked everything Irish, for no reason she could say. She had an older brother named Sylvan, probably because her father, Stanley Short, wanted to carry on the tradition of the S.S. initials, which always gave Finny the expectation that the name of a ship was to follow. She thought it was dumb to let someone else decide what you’d be called for the rest of your life—what if they named you Pooh Bear or Dishrag?—so she went ahead and made that decision herself.

Finny was a tough, rascally kid, with a plucky assurance, hair as red as a ripe tomato, a spray of freckles across her nose and cheeks like she’d been splashed with mud—cheeks that were puffed up like bread starting to rise, the kind of cheeks old aunties like to pinch. Sometimes when they did that, Finny pinched back. She wasn’t the type of kid to be ogled and fondled all day, to go oogly-googly when people told her how adorable she was. Once when she was four and her aunt Louise gave her a pinch on the cheek, Finny pinched the woman right back on the breast, so hard that Aunt Louise howled in pain and dropped Finny on the floor. It was a linoleum floor, and when Finny crashed down, everyone thought she was dead. Then Finny started to laugh. The reason she was laughing was that she’d plucked the button from Aunt Louise’s breast pocket clean off her blouse. She had it balled in her sweaty fist.

Finny’s mother, Laura, was a tall woman with a bony frame, a small mouth, a sharp little nose. She wouldn’t have been anything special to look at, but she put herself together in an appealing way. Hairpins and colorful sweaters and elegant black skirts. Laura had a warm smile, a shy, flirtatious way of speaking to you, and adults tended to talk to her the way they talked to Finny: in a slightly higher voice, with a practiced gentleness, a simple vocabulary. Finny saw the way her mother transformed herself for guests into a pleased, curious child—and Finny didn’t like it. All the posturing, the willed submission, the need to grab up people’s attention in greedy handfuls. As a girl Finny wore old soccer shirts and jeans cut off so the strings hung down over her knees. She always had a skinned elbow or a bruised calf muscle from roughhousing after school. She liked kick ball, and for a while could take down most of the boys in her class in a wrestling game they played at recess.

Laura was adamant about proper bathing and grooming, looking neat and tidy whenever you went out of the house. It is unfortunate but true that people judge you on your looks, Laura once told her. She had a way of imparting her own beliefs as if they were objective facts about the world.

So Finny responded, “How can I dress if I want to look like an orphan?”

Finny avoided baths, saying she’d bathed the day before and that was enough. Or else she’d get in the bath and neglect to use the soap. Or use it only on her legs but not her arms. Put the shampoo on her feet. Anything to throw her mother off, show her in what little regard Finny held all those careful preparations and disguisings. She came out of the tub sopping wet, dirt under her fingernails, mud on her cheeks, hair as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti. Finny was supposed to comb her hair after she got out of the bath, but for a while, when she was seven or eight, she stopped doing that. She would just comb the front, and then flip it in a way so that it looked neat when Laura saw it before bed, but the back got so knotted her brother, Sylvan, started calling it the rat’s nest.

Finny liked that. She modeled it in the mirror, in front of Sylvan, posing with her arms behind her head, or tilting her chin in an imitation of the coquettish poses she’d seen women striking in magazines. “My beautiful rat’s nest,” she’d say, stroking it like she was in an ad for shampoo. There was a thrill in this, in so brazenly tossing aside her mother’s notions. Like parading around with Laura’s underwear on her head. It made Sylvan nervous, Finny knew—he tried to do everything the right way—but he wasn’t going to tell anyone about it. Her brother wasn’t a snitch.

In the mornings and evenings Finny began to wear her hair up, just to hide it. One night she wore a hat—an old beret from a Halloween costume—when she couldn’t find a way to gather it up in any kind of decent shape. Laura asked her to take the hat off, and when she saw what was beneath it, she yelled at Finny and made her go to the Hair Cuttery and get it all combed out. It took four hours, and Finny’s mother had to pay triple because they needed three hairdressers working at the same time. Sylvan sat in the empty barber’s chair next to where the young women were grooming Finny like a prize poodle, and he told her how adorable she looked.

“Shut up,” Finny said. “Ouch.”

“You look like a strawberry shortcake,” he said.

That made her mad, the image of herself as a cute little dessert. “You look like something that gets flushed down the toilet when I’m sick!” Finny yelled in the middle of the hair salon. It was the most disgusting thing she could think of, and one of the young women dropped her comb.

“I’m sorry,” Laura said, shooting Finny a cautioning look.

Finny’s dad was a lawyer, the managing partner of a small firm in Baltimore, though the family lived far out in the suburbs. All her father ever talked about at the dinner table was “great men.” It was his favorite subject, and when they had dinner guests, he liked to sound people out on the issue. He even talked about writing a book one day if he could ever get his ideas in order. He loved to apply quotations by great men to whatever people were discussing. “Good artists borrow; great artists steal,” Stanley would offer during any discussion even mildly related to the subject of art. Then he would say, in a more sober tone, “Picasso.” Just the name. Never Picasso said that or That was Picasso’s idea. “God does not play dice,” was another of his favorites, and to Finny it sounded like a warning, as if God were telling you not to mess with Him. Then Stanley would say, “Einstein,” in the way other people say Amen at the end of prayers. The name was enough to command respect, dropped like a punctuation mark at the end of whatever point he was making.

Stanley was a shortish man, with red-brown hair, perfectly round wire-rimmed glasses, and a nose that looked slightly too large for his face. He had a finicky stomach, and he chewed Pepto-Bismol tablets like they were after-dinner mints. He didn’t like to announce trips to the bathroom, so when he had to get up from the table to attend to his stomach, he would always say he was going to brush his teeth, and then click his top and bottom teeth together, as if to illustrate what he meant. Sometimes he brushed his teeth three or four times over the course of an evening. Because of the Pepto, his breath had a milky, minty smell, like peppermint ice cream, which Finny would always remember waking to on Sunday mornings, when her dad got her out of bed.

Sylvan, who was a year older than Finny, seemed to gobble up everything Stanley said. Or at least he saw no reason to fight against it. When Stanley talked about his theories at the dinner table—about how and why these great men were such geniuses—Sylvan nodded, or asked little questions to spur his father on. He liked the show of it more than anything else, Finny thought later, the sight of his father so engaged, so dynamic. “Look at Jefferson,” Stanley would say. “Rousseau. Spinoza.” And when she was very young, Finny used to actually turn and look around the room, half-expecting these great men to be found crouching beneath the floral tablecloth, or beside the marble buffet where Finny’s mother kept the cracked teal candy plate, the birthday and holiday cards they’d received that season. “They all believed in the rational self-sufficiency of man, the potential of people to do good. Even if it’s rarely the case that they do.”

Sylvan nodded vigorously, then asked, “What’s ‘rash on all selfs’?”

Finny laughed. “It’s what you have,” she told Sylvan.

“Be serious,” Sylvan said.

“Be normal,” Finny shot back.

“Be quiet,” Laura said, “and let your father finish his point.”

Then Finny began to feed the dog, Raskal (after Raskolnikov; Crime and Punishment was the book that had turned Stanley on to Dostoyevsky), under the table. She liked to pinch little morsels of fish and potatoes off her plate, then slip them like secret messages into Raskal’s mouth. Like Stanley, Raskal had a sensitive stomach. He was a loafing, overweight golden retriever with asthma, and when he ate human food, he passed gas noticeably. As soon as Finny began to smell something funny, she heard her father say, “Fiiinnny,” his voice gradually rising through her name, like the volume being turned up on a stereo.

“What?” Finny said.

“Goddammit,” Stanley said. “Can’t you just sit still and listen?”

“I am listening.”

“Don’t feed the dog people food.”

“I don’t feed him people food. I feed him doggy food.”

“Food at the table is people food, and the doggy food is in the doggy room.”

“Sometimes people eat people food in the doggy room when the dog is eating doggy food,” Finny said.

“The point is, don’t feed him the food we’re eating, Finny.”

“How could I feed him what we’re already eating, Daddy?” Finny said, holding her palms up like it was the craziest question in the world. She knew it would get Stanley riled up. It was great men and mediocre men he wanted to make distinctions between, not people food and doggy food.

“Get up to your room,” he told her.


“I said get up there!” He was red, and he glared at her. It wasn’t that she liked teasing her father, getting him steamed; she just felt like he wasn’t speaking to her when he talked about his great men, like everything he said was offered with a wink in Sylvan’s direction.

One time, when Sylvan and Finny were much older and they were talking on the phone about their father, Sylvan said, “It’s the dinners I always remember. The way Dad held court.”

“The thing was,” Finny said, “he always seemed to be talking to you, don’t you think?”

“I think it’s only because I was listening. Really, you were a lot smarter than me. He knew you saw through it.”

It was like Sylvan to do this, jumble up all the pieces and rearrange them in a pleasing way, make everyone seem earnest and well-intentioned. She had never thought of the situation that way before, and she wasn’t sure if her brother was saying these things now only to make her feel better about what she couldn’t change.

“But that time I made fun of him?” she said, trying to pull their conversation back to surer ground, a silly story they could both laugh at.

That was the time her dad had yelled at her for feeding Raskal under the table, and from some perverse motivation, when he was done yelling, Finny had said, “Aristotle.” Just that one word, but in a voice that was clearly an imitation of the way Stanley quoted great men.

“What did you say?” Stanley asked.


“I heard you.”

“It wasn’t anything.”

“Don’t mock me, Finny.”

“I don’t mock,” she said, unable to resist the opening. “I steal.”

Stanley’s eyes lit up. “Get out!” he screamed, jostling the table so the plates clattered.

On the phone, Sylvan said to Finny, “I’d never seen him so angry before.”

“Me neither,” she said. “To tell the truth, I was a little frightened.”
“I don’t think you were ever frightened, Fin.”

“You’re wrong about that, Syl. I was more frightened than any of you ever knew.”

Finny grew up in northern Maryland, in the area of rolling farmland just west of Interstate 83, just south of the Pennsylvania line. The Shorts’ home sat on a hill, and from the back windows you could see the whole scoop of the valley where they lived: cornfields, clusters of trees, horse pastures, all threaded with fences and gravel driveways, dotted with big manorish houses. It looked to Finny, from her bedroom window, like a huge gaudy quilt. The air outside their house smelled like grass and dirt, honeysuckles in the late spring, horse manure when the farmers were planting. One lap around the block was eleven miles long, by the car’s odometer. (It had been Stanley who’d measured, on a Sunday, with Sylvan in the passenger seat: they’d reported their findings as soon as they’d walked in the door. “Eleven point two,” Stanley said. And Sylvan nodded.)

Finny’s childhood memories were a clutter of impressions: dried-out fence posts, the feeling of wet grass slapping her feet and the swishing sound it made when she walked in it, swampy summer air, dandelion dust, snow days where everything was bleached white, bright cool fall afternoons turning to silver evenings, hills like a great green sea rolling into the distance. Only at the farthest edge of her vision did the land appear to flatten out. At the horizon there was a kind of green-gray ribbon, which could have been trees or even mountains, some sort of border. It was too far away to tell. But when she was very young, Finny always imagined going there, and in her mind that far-off and magical place got mixed up with ideas she had about her future, about what lay beyond this house.

Another thing Finny remembered: Sunday mornings. It was the only day Stanley didn’t go into work at the law firm, and he spent it with the family. He was very adoring of Finny’s mother. It showed in his formality in social situations, holding doors and pulling out chairs. Then, at least one Sunday every month he made breakfast in bed for Laura. He was an awful cook, and managed to impart the flavor of five-alarm chili into any dish he prepared. Even when he made French toast, he was able through a combination of seasoning and cooking techniques to capture the essence of five-alarm chili. Some avant-garde New York restaurants would have appreciated his secrets.


Excerpted from Finny by Justin Kramon Copyright © 2010 by Justin Kramon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Finny 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
FINNY is the story of Finny Short - an unfortunate name for a girl who has quite the unfortunate life, all told. At first I thought this was going to be a coming-of-age story. The first section of the book had all of the markings of it. Young girl in a strange family, boy next door (who I got the impression was some kind of a dwarf? but he wasn't or something - still confused on that). Each family member had their own little quirks, their ways of being different. Then young Finny gets sent off to boarding school because her prim and proper mother finds out she's been kissing the boy next door. Here we kind of go into some murky waters, testing the whole lesbian thing and, I don't know if it was intended, but I really was thinking that Judith and her roommate might be moving into some territory here that.. really did not give me the best of feelings, considering the background and the story up to this point. Time moves on and Finny's life continues through its ups and downs. Now.. there were parts of the book that I loved and hated at the same time. Justin Kramon wrote with this sort of detached emotion through the book; he matter-of-factly laid out details about Finny's life and the lives of those around her. It was an odd feeling; feeling so outside of Finny's world but being so close to Finny - because she really was that engaging and compelling of a character. Was this book a worthwhile read? I'd say yes, and I'm very glad I was a last minute addition to this tour. I would never have picked up this book otherwise and, when all is said and done, there were moments that this book took me back to my own experiences in life through the emotions and struggles Finny had to deal with.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Irrepressible Finny Short is just fourteen when she meets Earl Henkl in the fields surrounding her home. Finny, a precocious young woman with an oddly endearing family, finds herself liking Earl right from the start. The two soon form a close attachment and Finny, longing to be close to Earl, begins sneaking away from the house to spend time with the boy from the woods. When Finny's eccentric parents discover that she has been misleading them and sneaking off with a boy, they pack her up and ship her away to Thornton, a boarding school far from home. There Finny meets the beautiful and confident Judith, a girl who is adored by all but who also has a compulsive need for danger and excitement. She also meets Poplan, an older woman who will come to be a very important part of her life. As Finny matures, she is hit by several unexpected circumstances, one of them being the fact that she and Earl have such great distance between them, which continually severs their connection. She is also hit by devastating family issues and unpleasant situations with Judith, as well as the more normal and everyday occurrences that hasten her maturity. As Finny navigates her life amid the heartache of her relationship with Earl and the myriad betrayals of Judith, she learns to stand on her own two feet and creates a life for herself. Finny learns that to navigate the world, sometimes you just have to let go and go with it. Populated with outrageous and wonderful characters, Finny is the tale of a young woman's journey through life and of the love and longing that follows her everywhere.Lately I've been enjoying coming-of-age stories. I've read quite a few in the last year but most of them have told the stories from the point of view of someone from times past or from foreign shores. I haven't read many that deal with a modern day American protagonist and I am happy to report that Finny fits that bill exactly. I wasn't sure what I would be getting with this book but to my surprise there was a lot that brought on nostalgia for me. Reading the book filled me with mixed emotions because I felt I could really understand Finny and her counterparts and the struggles they went through.I have to admit that although Finny was the main focus of the story, the real stars of the show were the secondary characters. They were odd, eccentric and laugh out loud funny. Whenever I read about someone new entering the story, I immediately became alert to them, knowing that Kramon was going to do his best to make them stand out. From the couple who runs the funeral home to Earl's father to Poplan herself, these characters had a true breath of life in them and it was so interesting to read about them and all their idiosyncrasies. This supporting cast did not disappoint, and kept me thoroughly entertained throughout the story. These were characters reminiscent of some of Dicken's best and I think that's one of the reasons that I responded so gleefully towards them.It actually took some time for me to feel an affinity for Finny. At first I found her very precocious. It might be because I have teenagers around the house that are this age, but I felt she had a smart mouth and was disrespectful to her parents. Though I had problems relating to her during these sections, she was remarkably similar to the teenagers that I have known in real life, making her a realistic, if frustrating, character. Later, when Finny began to mature and life began to have its way with her, I felt much closer to her because I thought that her trials humanized and matured her. She went from a bratty kid to a sensitive woman in a believable way. She seemed to start to change after leaving boarding school and became more considerate, less brash and more thoughtful. As she grew older I felt I liked her more, which I think is a great testament to the author's ability to create a multifaceted character who manifests growth and maturity as the story progresses. After a rough start, Finny and I ended up g
Emmagan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Growing up in Maryland Finny at age 14 falls in love with this boy name Earl, A son of a Pianist. But when Sylvan, Finny's brother decide to tell their parents of her love, they get very angry and soon she is off to an all girl boarding school. There is meant a Hygiene obsessed dorm matron Poplan, who she well become close with, and Shares a room with A rich girl name Judith, who she thinks nice and cool.In the story Finny will face heart breaks, true love, and new friends. As the book followers Finny life story.Justin Kramon did a great job describing the characters in finny. Though i would have to admit that I have read about these type of characters before ,i think that Justin did a good job in making them a little bit more interesting then common characters. Finny will be some interesting characters through Judith. Carter being among one of them,I love how Carter is openly gay. Carter and Finny will becomes friends in the story. I fell in love with Earl the moment i heard about him. The way he cares and feels about Finny is so sweet. That at some point I feel like i am in finny shoes.The last two chapters i think are missing something that i can't put my finger on it. The writing just seems hurried to me. Like the author tried to get lots of info in at the last minute. Some i feel was unneeded info.Over all i liked the story, give and take that there was some things i did not like. It still had me keep reading, and wondering what will happen next. This may not be the book for you but it don't hurt to just give it a try. you never now what you will think.
sjurban on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There was so much hype about how great this book was. Well, it was okay, not great. While the characters were interesting, the writing was immature. One of the first signs of this was the way the names of the characters reflected their behavior. It just seemed too juvenile for an adult novel. The ending was abrupt and too happy, it didn't fit with who the characters had become. This story could have been better if the author had more experience. I will not be rushing out to pick up his next book.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)It's easy to see as you're reading Finny, the debut novel of the academically-trained Justin Kramon (an alum of the Iowa Writers' Workshop whose short work has appeared in Glimmer Train among others), that he means for this to be a quirky-cute multigenerational character-based dramedy, and that he most likely has a real fondness for an author like John Irving who created the blueprint for such a story with his World According to Garp. And that's what makes this book so frustrating, in that he gets this cocktail of elements almost exactly right in the first half, essentially the tale of an obstinate, charming teenage girl surrounded by bizarre intellectuals and freakish-looking boys with kind hearts, who has a series of adventures that take her from the rural countryside to a New England boarding school, delivering enough folksy yet smart quirk along the way to make even Fannie Flagg proud; but then Kramon almost entirely drops the strange twists and details in the second half, as our cast of characters all reach young adulthood and start living much more blase lives, full of the same kinds of ho-hum ups and downs that beset any urban creative-classer in their twenties. The attempt to paint the story on such a wide canvas is commendable for sure, and this is a much more competently written debut than a lot of other first novels out there, which is why it's getting as high a score as it is; but Finny still ultimately falls flat by the end, as if the short-format veteran Kramon had literally run out of things to say, an A for effort but C for execution which I suppose we'll average into a B today. I'm absolutely looking forward to the more complex and mature novels I'm sure Kramon has in store for us, but today's book gets only a limited recommendation, and is suggested mostly for existing fans of Amalie and other cute character-based tales.Out of 10: 8.2
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finny was 14 years old when she first met Earl, whose life would intertwine with hers for years to come. Since her own family's idiosyncrasies (dinner conversation with her parents consisted of her father quoting--with attribution!--any famous saying slightly related to the topic at hand, while her mother was full of advice on behaving in a proper manner!) left her feeling unfulfilled at home, she adopted Earl and his father. They were odd enough in their own ways, but at least gave Finny the affection and acceptance she needed. The author focuses on Finny's earlier years, when she first meets Earl and his father, and then was summarily sent away to boarding school when she was caught kissing Earl! These chapter prepare the way for the remainder of Finny's story; the characters we meet here will remain a part of her life, and we keep coming back to them to observe how each has changed and grown over the intervening years.Author Kramon has written a delightful study of a spunky young girl developing into a successful and happy woman. The way isn't always smooth, but it is always interesting. It's a quiet story with some laugh-out-loud moments--there is an undercurrent of sorrow through much of it, of things left undone and unsaid. Miscommunication, or lack of communication, cause much of the pain that Finny and her circle of friends must endure.The writing is solid and clear, and the story flows smoothly, in spite of the long gaps in the narration. The author's characterizations are especially strong. The people in Finny feel real, and I won't be forgetting them soon.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From My book review blog (Rundpinne):Through bizarre circumstances, eccentric characters, and extraordinary events lies an undercurrent of deep sadness in Justin Kramon¿s debut novel Finny. The novel chronicles Finny Short¿s life beginning at age 14, and for the next 20 years, the story is told in a straightforward manner and the reader may easily be taken aback at first by Finny. Finny is not an average 14 year old and the events surrounding her life are anything but dull. I will admit I did not enjoy the first section and a half of the novel, for reference the novel is written in three sections, but I am glad I read the novel through to its completion. Finny, at first glance, is a 14-year-old brat and her boarding school experience did not make me care for her more, but as I mentioned, the novel picked up for me and by the end I truly was glad I chose to finish it. Why? I cannot say without spoilers, however, Finny is a beautifully crafted novel of a unique girl who learns how to become a woman. I believe Kramon has the potential to become a name in the literary field, as his approach to his characters is refreshing and decidedly not dull and he writes brilliantly. I recommend Finny to anyone looking for a completely different type of literary story filled with humour, wit, an eccentric cast of characters and profound sadness and love. Finny is a book that will stay with the reader long after the story has ended. I highly recommend Finny to book discussion groups.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those rare books that left me, more than anything, just feeling luke-warm about nearly all aspects of it, though at other times I was simply disgusted with the unbelievability or triteness of it. It's very traditional, nicely written, and I would have guessed pretty easily that it came out of an MFA program, and from a young male writer. At the same time, I'll forget it very quickly, and it's nothing I'd consider passing on or recommending to other readers, simply because what the book Does have going for it is so utterly expected and traditional.It's a coming of age tale (of the title character, of course), and she goes through every step and mis-step that you'd expect for an American girl growing up in the twentieth century. Characters are mostly stock characters, but the side characters such as Carter (the gay friend) are the most convincingly written. Finny herself often comes across as much younger than she is--when I finally learned her actual age early on, I was fairly shocked in fact, expecting her to have been years younger. As with this age gap, at times her actions just don't make sense--the motivation isn't quite there, or the change in mood is just taken for granted. Simply, I just didn't always 'Buy' her and her love interest as real characters.Narration was also, at times, a distraction. Kramon skimmed over portions of Finny's story which he found uninteresting, and expected readers to find uninteresting. I've seen the technique used in other working twentieth century novels of recent years, but here, there wasn't enough preparation to make it unawkward, and, unfortunately, there wasn't enough of interest in what Was being told to make those untold parts seem convincingly less important---except, in the simple fact that Kramon was presenting a fairly linear love story when it came right down to it, so why bother with the portions of life where the love interest didn't fall? That may seem a bit cynical, but then, this book left me feeling rather cynical, to the extent that at times during the story I found myself literally rolling my eyes.In the end, this isn't a book I could bring myself to care about in regard to either plot or character. It wasn't bad, or good. It wasn't new in any respect, but it was convincingly pulled off as an MFA driven first novel. I suppose I'd describe it as bland or expected, with some interesting moments, and at least a few unique (if fairly unconvincing) characters, who I'm afraid were more caricatures for comic entertainment than truly realized figures.
jo-jo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I just worry that my review will not do it any justice. Justin Kramon did such a wonderful job of showing us the life of young Finny and what I appreciated the most is that it wasn't a perfect life. Finny had a pretty good life even though she made mistakes along the way, but I've always been a firm believer in how our mistakes can make us into stronger individuals. I could definitely see the strength in Finny's character within this book.Finny is introduced to us as a young girl that is full of spunk and ready to conquer the world. She really didn't appreciate the family she had at that age, let's face it, how many of us really do, so when she ran into Earl one day she found herself opening up to both him and his single father. She loved visiting with the Henckel family, watching their little quirks and oddities and listening to Mr. Henckel play the most beautiful piano music she had ever heard. Little did she know that she was setting a foundation for a lifetime relationship with Earl that would be the most important and the most difficult that she would ever have.Early on in their lives, Earl and Finny are separated by circumstances. Finny is sent to boarding school at one point and then Earl moves to France to live with his mom. One would think this relationship is doomed but they really tried to make things work by visiting each other, telephone calls and letters. As they both have errors in judgement with their relationships as they find themselves growing into adults and making mistakes that may not be forgiven.I felt that a window was created for me to watch the various stages of Finny's life. After high school and college she struggled with her career choices and relationships. Not only her relationship with men, but also the women that she has befriended throughout her life, from boarding school through her college years. The friendships were not perfect either, which made the element of truth just that much more real to me.The writing in this novel flowed so beautifully for me that I can tell you I didn't want to put it down at night. The emotions that it evoked within me were amazing also-one night I was in stitches laughing, while the next evening I was in tears. It was a book that saddened me as I was turning the last page because I really did not want to say goodbye to Finny and I still feel a bit of an emptiness now as I am writing this review. With themes of love, endurance, family, and true friendship this book really has something in it for everyone. I am thrilled that this is Justin Kramon's first novel because now I can't wait for what may come next. If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delphine Short, or Finny, as she likes to be called, is ¿a tough, rascally kid, with a plucky assurance, hair as red as a ripe tomato, a spray of freckles across her nose and cheeks like she¿s been splashed with mud.¿ Finny¿s mother is a shallow woman who is worried about appearances and her father is a lawyer who is obsessed with ¿great men.¿ Finny¿s older brother Sylvan is an agreeable young man who seems to fit in with their parents better than Finny does. One evening when things get to be a little too much for her, Finny ¿runs away,¿ and meets Earl, a curious young man who doesn¿t live too far from her.Meeting Earl turns out to be a momentous occasion in Finny¿s life. When Finny¿s mother finds out that she¿s kissed Earl, Finny is sent away to a boarding school. Earl, as well as the friends she makes at boarding school, help Finny navigate through life.It¿s hard to write much about Finny by Justin Kramon without giving away too much of the story, and it¿s a story that¿s best revealed a little at a time. Some points of the book felt a little rambling to me, but at the end, I realized it was all part of the journey. The characters are great, even when you don¿t like them, and the story line is entertaining and amusing. It almost felt like a modern twist on old fashioned story-telling to me. I was satisfied as I closed Finny for the last time, and my affection for the book has grown the more I¿ve thought about it. Justin Kramon is definitely an author to watch for.
watertiger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
FINNY is Justin Kramer's first novel. He presents a tale of a young teen girl over a twenty year span of time. This is a romance story, it is a story about beginnings and endings.I believe that Kramer shows promise as a novelist. There are moments in the story that are cleanly written, in the moment and alive.Unfortunately, there are long stretches of story that read as character sketches and plot synopsis. The book needs more development.Would I read another book by Kramer?Definitely, yes. There is talent there that is still untapped and under the surface. I think that a male author attempting to cover two decades in the life of a woman is too ambitious an undertaking for even the best of authors. That being said, this book would appeal to a young adult reading audience (if the explicit sex were removed).
Quiltinfun06 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finny is a lovely, light and easy story that was fun to read. Finny Short is a young woman who has some fresh ideas, at least for her family. Raised by a father who is quite intelligent and a submissive mother, she runs away from home one day to a not too distant field where she meets Earl. The novel is a "telling" of the Finny and Earl story. They move away; they grow apart' they meet often; they never really say a final good-bye. It doesn't take much imagination to know the ending of the Finny and Earl saga.I enjoyed reading this novel and it reminded me a lot of a Maeve Binchy novel. It is certainly worth the time it takes to read it.
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ADM51 More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 2 days because I couldn't put it down. It was one of the best books I have read in a long time. The writing was beautiful and the story was unique and touching. The characters felt like people I would like to know as friends. I am looking forward to more of Justin Kramon's work - what a talent with words and storytelling he has!
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