So Long at the Fair

So Long at the Fair

by Christina Schwarz

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307275493
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/14/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Christina Schwarz is the author of the critically acclaimed All Is Vanity and Drowning Ruth, a #1 bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, which was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and optioned by Wes Craven for Miramax. She lives in New Hampshire.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Over, over, done and over. Finished. Jon Kepilkowski scratched his scalp with his fingernails. He'd shampooed, rinsed, and repeated, scrubbed under his arms and between his toes, soaped every surface, brushed under his nails, squirted into his ears. The water gushing from the showerhead was cooling. Reluctantly, he twisted the tap shut and worked himself over roughly with a towel.
From the bedroom window he watched his wife as she knelt in the dirt, her face obscured by her hat, her hands busy beneath a clump of pink flowers he couldn't name. He'd known her for twenty years, longer even if you counted the first two years of high school when it wasn't so much that he'd been afraid to say "Hello" to her, but more that she'd been so far out of his league that it hadn't occurred to him that opening his mouth and emitting speech in her direction was even an option. He'd not, he recalled, even uttered "Excuse me" the time he'd accidentally bumped her with his lunch tray, the contact between the orange plastic and the green wool of her sweater so intimate, so electric it had instantly closed his throat and jump-started his heart. He'd pretended at the time, he confessed years later, though she had no memory of the incident, that he'd not even noticed the collision had occurred. When she turned with a slight, involuntary gasp to see who'd jabbed her in the ribs, he'd turned in the same direction, as if obliviously searching the line behind him for a friend.
This morning she'd have been up for hours already, taking advantage of the early coolness. He wished he could see her expression under the brim of the hat. As always in these past few months, whenever he'd been apart from her for a few hours, anxiety began to collect around the edges of his consciousness. Between the moment the night before when she'd shoved her book onto the nightstand, maneuvering it among the detritus--the glasses of dusty water, the uncapped tube of ChapStick, the broken earring, the hair clip, the crumpled Kleenex--between that moment and this, had she found him out? What face would she show him when she looked his way?
Impulsively, he twisted the latch and slid the window up with a little too much vigor. The sash banged against the frame. "Gin!"
She turned, tilting her head back, squinting up at him with her hooded eyes, then drew back suddenly, feigning shock. "Hey! There's a naked man in my house! Get out, naked man! Get away from my window!" She kept her voice low, for him, alone.
He sighed, safe. "Maybe you'd like to come up?"
She laughed and turned back to the pink flowers.
He hadn't meant it as a joke. His relief had triggered desire, and he was vaguely, if, he acknowledged, unreasonably, irritated by her response.
He dressed in long shorts and a white T-shirt and Velcroed on the sort of shoes useful for splashing across shallow rivers. Since he'd started working at the agency, he'd decided that the button-down shirts and khakis he'd favored at the start of his career made him look like a little boy playing dress up and had abandoned that costume for one less earnest, one definitely but not too aggressively cool, as much to remind himself of who he was, or was trying to be, as to signal this to others. It wasn't a dull style, but nor was it, he recognized with some disappointment, the least surprising. He'd let his hair grow and curl midway down his neck, wore the jeans the world liked to see on an art director and, on summer workdays, European sandals that would have made his father sneer.
He retrieved the laptop he'd pushed under the bed the night before. One message from Kyle, his brother. Seven work-related messages, beginning with one from Kaiser, sent at four a.m., just before that lunatic had gone to bed, no doubt. Three from Freddi. He felt his pulse quicken. Better to have left the machine cold. Even now it was not too late to let it sleep, snap the cover down, slide the thing into its case ready to transport into work on Monday.
He carried it into the second bedroom, which functioned as his office, and gently shut the door. He fingered the Return key for a few seconds, savoring the anticipation. The first from Freddi was some copy ideas for Ballast Bank, some serious, some silly; none, he saw immediately, workable. The second read: "I hate weekends." The third: "I can almost sense you here beside me on the bed, your warm largeness, your flipper-like feet, your brown-sugar eyes. You are the bittersweet chocolate to which I press my tongue. I send you kisses for your lips and elsewhere. Good night."
He closed his eyes, allowed himself to swell with the thought of her. She resembled a fox, with her pale brown eyes that tended to amber; her small, very white teeth; her smooth, reddish hair; her tight, muscular body. He found the whole combination of sharpness and softness immensely attractive. But it was the way she looked at him that pushed him over the edge; her gaze told him that the two of them were the only ones in on it, whatever it was, the joke, the plan, the skinny. She had chosen him and he'd basked in it, rolled in it, lapped it up. She was like sugar, like nicotine; the more he got, the more he wanted. No, it wasn't over, done, finished. He craved her.
"My lips miss you," he typed, and then paused. "Elsewhere misses you, too." He paused again, absently pulling one of the antique fountain pens from the jarful he kept on his desk. He played with it, capping and uncapping it, rolling its smooth Bakelite case between his fingers. He couldn't think without something in his hands. And then, too, he always felt a little self-conscious writing to her. Words were her thing, not his.
"A kiss on your heart," he typed, inspired, "and one lower down, much lower." It was a line Napoleon had used in a letter to Josephine. He'd heard it on a PBS documentary last night. "You are so . . ." he began.
"Hey."
Ginny, long-legged and stealthy, despite her large bones, stood in the doorway in her garden uniform, the sleeves of one of his discarded T-shirts rolled up to her shoulders, the elastic waistband of her shorts supplemented with a safety pin, her dark hair springing free from its noose.
His heart exploded--the blast of adrenaline actually pained him--and his hand trembled as he reached to close the window of his message. Easy. Not guiltily fast. Stupid to have closed the door and shut out the sound of her bare feet on the carpeted stairs.
"Hey, yourself."
The cover made a tiny metallic click as it kissed the keyboard.
"More orders from headquarters, huh?"
He knew it was a point of pride with her not to allow herself to be suspicious; she would not be one of those women who worried about holding on to her husband.
"Your mother said I'd better keep my eye on you," she'd said just last month, as they drove through the blackness after an evening at Kyle and Paula's. "Like you were some caged bird ready to fly the coop the moment I turned my back on the door." She'd looked out the window as she spoke, her head tipped back, as though she were searching the night sky for a bird that had indeed flown.
"My mother," he'd said, his tone implying a roll of the eyes.
He could sense that she had turned her face toward him, though he'd kept his own eyes firmly on the ever-receding tunnel of light on the highway ahead.
"Does she know something I don't?" she asked.
It occurred to him to confess. Not to the whole of his crime but to a small degree of it. He might say he was worried that Freddi was attracted to him. It would be like opening a valve just a fraction, not so much that it would all escape but enough to gradually relieve the pressure. It would mean the end, of course, of late nights "working," of long lunches during which he could honestly say, "I'm with Freddi," without fear of arousing suspicion. It would mean the end of it all. It was a safe way out. He turned and, while his heart throbbed hard enough to choke him, looked at her full-on for two entire seconds, enough time to kill them both, if something unexpected had appeared on the highway. But, finally, he faced forward again. "Of course not."
"I suppose people who've behaved badly themselves tend to be suspicious of everyone else."
"Probably." He wished he could close his eyes to block out the shame.
"Well," she said, smiling, "you'd better never force me to use my wiles."
He laughed. She had always been the most guileless person he'd ever known. It was one of the things he loved best about her.
A near miss, he'd thought at the time. And he had resolved all the way home that it was finished with Freddi, that he'd learned his lesson. He made love to his wife that night with a fierce exuberance released by a nearly clear conscience. The lying was over, he'd assured himself. He loved Ginny. The thought of losing her had filled him with a dark and breathless panic the whole night through.
But by Monday, a bright, cheerful, cloudless day, the panic had seemed far away, a small, irretrievable flutter in the distance. At work Freddi had leaned over him and laughed at something he'd said, and her skin had exuded a scent he wished he could breathe forever.
And now here he was, trapped in his study with the evidence under his fingers and Ginny's large frame blocking the door. How had he gotten ink on his hands? "Just gonna wash up quick, and then I'm ready." He stood up, raising his eyebrows at her expectantly.
"Ready?" She cocked her head, pushing a damp curl behind her ear. Her finger left a smudge along her cheek.
"To go to Summerfest." He frowned. "What we're doing today."
She clapped both hands on the top of her head and made the face he used laughingly to call "the Lucy." An expression he now thought of privately as "the fuckup."
"What?" He sounded impatient, but what he felt was desperate. He'd conceived of this plan, this revisiting of a scene from their youth, a time when they'd been, it seemed to him now, simply, vigorously happy, because he urgently needed to see her again as he once had, to remind himself of the pull of her, of the way the very thought of her had once possessed him, so that he turned always toward her, helplessly, like a flower on its stalk in the presence of the sun. He wanted to remember how it had felt to be certain that he must have her, her and no other, that only her promise to be with him forever could keep him breathing. Although, of course, he no longer felt this way with any immediacy, until recently, until Freddi, he'd nevertheless been sure that he was still connected to those early impulses, as if by a long, unbreakable, ever-unwinding thread. If he couldn't relive them, he could still see their colors and textures at the inception of all, good and bad, that had come since. Now, though, he was unmoored. Pursuing Freddi, a bright flash in the thickets, he'd let the thread slip from his grasp and he couldn't seem to grab hold of it again.
"Summerfest!" she exclaimed. The surprise on her face made him want to hit something. "Are you sure we were going today?"
He never needed to say anything in these situations. She would play the idea out, letting it loop and twist, until she snagged something solid. "I remember talking about it, but I thought we'd settled on Sunday. Or maybe that we hadn't really decided." She closed her eyes, pressed her palm on her forehead, and exhaled. "Oh, I should have written it down. Maybe I even did write it down. Probably I did. But you know I never check my calendar on the weekends." She opened her eyes, facing the facts. "Shoot, I screwed it up, didn't I? I'm sorry, Jon. I completely forgot."
Her contrition always disarmed him. He reached forward and put his hand on her shoulder. Her skin retained the warmth of the sun that had been baking it. "No big deal. We can go in an hour. Take your time."
"But I've scheduled two meetings for today."
"Cancel them."
"I can't cancel at the last minute. And one's with Nora. You know how impossible it is to schedule with her, now that she's got Prince Rodney."
He wanted to remind her that she was canceling with him at the last minute. "So we're not going."
"Well, how about tomorrow? Couldn't we go tomorrow instead? Is there some band you wanted to see tonight? Did you get tickets?"
No, he hadn't gotten tickets and he didn't care particularly about the bands. In fact, tomorrow might even be better in that Kyle had said something about showing up there today and listening to Kyle go on about paintball and Paula talk about the new drapes in the family room was close to the last thing he wanted for this outing. There was no good reason they couldn't change their plans to Sunday, except that he didn't want to. He'd planned on today; he'd ascribed redemptive powers to today; today was it.
"I don't like this, Ginny. Why should Nora and your work come before me? You're taking me for granted." God, he sounded like a women's magazine.
She stared at him, triumph lighting her face. "You're kidding, right? Mr. I've-Got-to-Stay-at-the-Office-Until-Two-a.m. Mr. I've-Got-to-Take-This-Call-It's-Kaiser." Her tone was light, singsongy, mocking. Never show anger when sarcasm would do, that was her weapon. It made him clench his fists. "Mr. Freddi-and-I-Have-to-Work-Today-You-Go-to-Your-Parents'-Alone."
His blood seemed all to run to his head, leaving his body cold. That had been two weeks ago, a family picnic. And they had been late with the McTeague concepting. They had! He couldn't keep his eyes on her any longer. He looked away. There on the desk was the laptop, its secrets crouching under the lid, ready to spring into the light.
Before he could respond, she raised her hand. "No, listen, it's my fault," she said, shaking her head. "I wasn't paying enough attention. I'll go call Nora and these other people. Maybe Sunday will work just as well for them." She turned and started down the stairs. This, too, was her weapon, striking like a snake and then slipping away before they could have it out. He wanted to reach for her, to grab her by the shoulders and hold her there, to beg for her help in fixing this whole mess, but he managed only to follow her to the top of the stairs, where he stood and watched her make her way down.
Stairs, especially going down, were the most difficult for her to negotiate. On flat surfaces, her limp was almost imperceptible, but stepping down she had to lean hard on the rail and her left foot fell onto each tread with a stomp, while her right, the one that belonged to the leg that was now ever so slightly shorter than the other, made no sound at all.
Usually he didn’t even notice; he was so accustomed to her gait. Today, though, the sound, the way she jerked her head and shoulder, reminded and reminded him of what he would always owe her, especially when it was beginning to seem that what he had done in an impulsive moment twenty years ago may have cost them a family.
She was looking up at him from the bottom of the stairs, and he could tell that she had changed her mind again. “You know what, Jon?”
He hated it when she used that self-righteous tone.
“I’m not going to rearrange my appointments. Maybe I shouldn’t have scheduled them, but I did. You know, I have a job and it’s just as important to me as your job is to you.”
“I know your job is important–”
“We can go to Summerfest tomorrow.”
He came down the stairs then, descending into her hard gaze and meeting it with his own. Halfway down, he felt a twinge, a sort of sizzle deep within his ankle, the remains of a basketball injury he’d sustained, what, six months ago? The older he got, the longer these things took to heal.
“You know what, Ginny?” he said, as he passed her, his voice dishonestly pleasant. “You do whatever you want.” It was a relief to feel angry with her, not guilty, not anxious, not sad, just angry.
He kept walking, down the hall, through the kitchen, through the door that led to the garage.
“Where are you going?” she demanded. “Jon! Where are you going?”
But he let her question roll off him. He didn’t know the answer anyway.
He backed out of the garage fast and stomped on the accelerator as soon as he hit the street. Next door, the Murphys, raking little mounds of cut grass into city-approved brown-paper lawn-clipping bags, turned to watch him go by, narrowing their eyes. For years, he had tried his best with them. He’d waved and greeted, tossed their newspaper from the sidewalk to the stoop, once re-boxed their recycling when the wind had scuttled it, but they never smiled at him. Fuck them.
“Fuck you and you, too,” he said, staring back at them through the side window.
What was this world-music shit? He leaned on the tuner, letting it gallop up and down the stations. Anything, anything, but this.
The Murphys liked Ginny. Even though she laughed when he mocked them in private, checking over her shoulder to be sure the windows were shut tight. Everyone liked Ginny.


From the Hardcover edition.

Reading Group Guide

“A complex journey into lovers' hearts and minds. . . . So Long at the Fair is a thriller and a mystery as well as character-driven literary fiction."
Los Angeles Times

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enrich and deepen your group's reading of So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz.

1. So Long at the Fair reveals the perspectives of multiple characters and dual timelines. In what way did this enhance your reading? How would the storytelling have been affected if you had just seen Jon's point of view?

2. Jon is portrayed as a perfectionist who is compulsively clean and organized. Yet there are glimpses of areas in his life that defy this, such as an unorganized desk drawer, a car glove box in disarray, and his tendency to misquote the lyrics of well-known songs. What is the significance of these contradictions?

3. As the novel alternates between 1963 and the present, the link between the two storylines is gradually revealed. Did you draw any early conclusions about how the characters and events might be connected? Were you correct?

4. How does Christina Schwarz, who was raised in Wisconsin, use this setting as a “character” in her work? How does this setting reflect the characters who inhabit it?

5. Examine the relationship between Jon and Ginny. Do you believe it was truly love that drew them together in the first place, or did other factors influence them? What do you think eventually drove Jon to be unfaithful?

6. If you had been Freddi's close friend, what advice would you have given her?

7. How did your opinion of Ethan shift throughout the scenes? At what point did you realize his potential to do harm?

8. What parallels exist between Jon and his father, in terms of their personalities as well as the events that altered their lives?

9. What do you think really happened between Walter Fleischer and Hattie in 1963? What were your first impressions of him?

10. How did you react to Marie's involvement in the events that led to Walter's car accident in 1963? Do you hold her solely responsible, or did Clark, Bud, or Walter share the blame? Did Bud fully realize the extent of his wife's deceit?

11. Discuss the role of Kyle (Jon's brother) in So Long at the Fair. How might he have influenced Jon's actions throughout the novel?

12. What are your theories about Ginny's reluctance to take a pregnancy test? What was the truth about her struggle to conceive?

13. Discuss some of the possible interpretations for the novel's title. What outcomes were foreshadowed in the words So Long at the Fair?

14. What do you predict for the characters' futures, including Freddi's? Do you think Ginny discovers the truth and, if so, does she forgive Jon?

15. How often does the past repeat itself within generations of families you know personally? Do human beings perpetuate cycles of tragedy, or is that primarily a matter of fate?

16. Do the dilemmas in So Long at the Fair echo any aspects of the author's previous novels, Drowning Ruth and All Is Vanity? What makes Christina's Schwarz's approach to fiction unique?

Customer Reviews

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So Long at the Fair 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
iubookgirl on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair is a story of two families that intertwine over the course of two generations. The main focus is on a day in the life of Jon and Ginny, a couple who is struggling after years of marriage. Christina Schwarz presents several strands of narrative throughout the book including the present, memories of the past from each of the characters, and flashbacks to 1963--a year that changed the course of both Jon's and Ginny's parents. While I find it hard to explain here, Schwarz does an admirable job of managing them all. After all this, I was surprised at the resolution (or lack thereof) of these various strands. I finished the book a few days ago and have come to appreciate this fact. It allows the reader to create their own "next chapter" for the characters and interpret events as they choose. There are other surprises along the way, which always kept me coming back for more. If you hate reading about extramarital affairs or like stories wrapped up in a neat, little bow, this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you like to mull over a book even after you've finished it and enjoy reflections on human foibles, pick this one up now.
readingrat on LibraryThing 27 days ago
The main story in So Long at the Fair takes place over the course of one Saturday in the lives of Jon and Ginny, a married couple who had been high school sweethearts. Their relationship has stagnated and Jon is having an affair with a co-worker, which has progressed to the point where Jon must make his choice between the two women. Jon begins his day hoping to re-ignite his passion for Ginny during a day-long road trip to a nearby county fair, but ends up stomping off in anger to spend the day with his paramour (Freddi) instead, when he finds out that Ginny wants to re-schedule their outing because of previous business commitments.In addition to the main story, we have the flashback story of Jon¿s parents (Clark and Hattie) and Ginny¿s parents (Bud and Marie) in 1963 as Clark and Marie try to force Bud into a confrontation with the local playboy (Walt) who refuses to admit that he raped Hattie.Through the course of this single Saturday, both Ginny and Jon reminisce about their high school days and the accident that injured Ginny and brought the two of them together. Meanwhile a second co-worker of Jon¿s (whose wife previously cheated on him) conveniently sets the stage for Ginny to discover Jon¿s affair with Freddi. And if that isn¿t enough going on already, an old boyfriend of Freddi¿s is stalking her (and now Jon) in a deluded attempt to win her back.Obviously there is a lot going on in this book and sometimes I found it necessary to go back and re-read a chapter or two to make sure I had the story and the relationships straight. Each story ends with a subtle twist and a sense of openness that makes it seem more like the beginning of a story which is yet to come.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Thank you to Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review this galley. Author Christina Schwarz, who also wrote Drowning Ruth, tells the story of a marriage and an affair. Jon and Ginny struggle with the minutiae of their relationship, while each of them also struggles with the past which has shaped their future. Two things make their lives even more difficult ¿ Ginny is trying to get pregnant and Jon is having an affair with a co-worker. While this might be enough drama for some, the author tells us another story. It is the story of Jon and Ginny¿s parents ¿ told in alternating chapters of the book. Does the past dictate the future? Is the marriage on the brink of disaster? To be honest, I found this book a little confusing. Even so, I enjoyed it. And I liked it enough to read it again with a who¿s who chart! Why? Because the emotion and struggles are so well developed by Schwarz that the novel is worth a second read for full understanding. The characters are likeable and the suspense builds to a somewhat satisfying conclusion.
detailmuse on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair tracks a day in the marriage of a contemporary thirtysomething couple: a quarrel, the husband escaping to his lover, the wife teetering on the brink of discovery of his affair. Schwarz¿s confident exploration of this quiet story in a Midwestern setting feels pleasingly old-fashioned, like a satisfying trip home.That¿s not to say it¿s a simple trip. Indeed, the main story is intercut with backstory and subplots (including one that seemed to come out of nowhere and another that seemed unresolved) -- and then is interwoven with a 1960s story about the couple¿s parents. At times, keeping the relationships straight feels as complicated as connecting great-aunts to second-cousins. But if the reader is willing to do some heavy lifting with a careful reading, Schwarz does not disappoint.
JGoto on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz is a novel that goes back and forth between events that happened to two generations of the same families. The bulk of the story centers on present-day Jon, a married man who is having an affair with a co-worker. The book is filled with foreshadowing and innuendo in both time periods, with the final outcomes being somewhat anticlimactic. The characters are not particularly developed, and the plot is fairly predictable, but it may be fine as an easy beach read for someone who enjoys chick lit.
tara35 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz is told in alternating storylines, one taking place in 1963, the other in present day. As the stories unfold it becomes clear how these stories relate and the character's complicated relationships with one another are revealed. The main part of the story has to do with present day Jon and his wife Ginny, who Jon is cheating on with Freddi, a coworker. We follow them though one hot, sticky, summer day, as they go through their day and encounter various other people who also seem to have a history of relationship troubles. There is even a stalker, Ethan, who follows Freddi around. His behavior veers from disturbing to terribly frightening to downright funny. He is bit of a food snob and being sort of one myself, I found it humorous to read about his preoccupation with table manners and food in general.I cannot really say that I enjoyed this book, mainly because I am not really interested in reading about infidelity. This was an ARC supplied to me by the publisher which is why I continued with it. It is certainly a readable book, and a well-told story which leads to an improbable and rather dramatic conclusion. It is a book about relationships, but unhealthy ones, which is perhaps why I never connected to any of the characters or the story itself.
mrstreme on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Christina Schwartz¿s latest book, So Long At The Fair, was a story about adultery and distrust in relationships. At the center, it¿s the story of Jon and Ginny, high school sweethearts who have been married for many years, and Jon¿s affair with his co-worker, Freddi. But Schwartz added many layers to this already-told tale ¿ layers that often left me scratching my head but still piqued my interest.While learning about Jon, Ginny and Freddi (and their marriage or relationship), the reader also read flashbacks from 1963, which involved Jon and Ginny¿s parents. There were also flashbacks about Freddi¿s childhood and college years. Minor characters tended to play major roles as the story unfolded. But one must wait until the last chapters to see how it all connected. Told over the course of one day, Schwartz does a good job captivating the reader regarding Jon¿s decision: to leave his wife or dump Freddi. Plus, the prospect of Jon and Freddi getting caught added a level of suspense. Where the story broke down for me were the many confusing story lines, especially the 1963 flashbacks. I had a hard time keeping track of characters¿ names and what part they played in this story. It wrapped up in the end, but I wonder why these sub-stories made their way into So Long At The Fair.Schwartz is a fabulous writer, and her ability to draw in a reader is commendable. Despite the multiple storylines, I still plowed ahead with So Long At The Fair because I had to know how it ended. What did Jon decide? Did he get caught? What was going on in 1963? Overall, I would recommend this book to readers who want a quick but provocative read ¿ or to those who like to watch train wrecks unfold on the page.
picklechic on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Wow! I enjoyed this book right up until the end. The book was written as flashbacks between the past and the present. The present day story takes place of the course on one day and focuses on a wife, Ginny, and a husband, Jon, who is having an affair with a coworker. Jon is conflicted and unsure of whether to leave his wife or breakup with his girlfriend. The past story deals with what happened many years ago, when the Jon and Ginny's parents were young and knew each other. I really enjoyed the writing style, the flashbacks, and the characters. I was really caught up in the characters and wanted to know how it would end. Would Jon choose his wife or his mistress? Unfortunately, the book had a horrible ending with no closure and left me hanging. I could hardly believe that it ended the way it did. I don't know if Schwarz was trying to let the reader choose or if I just "didn't get it", but I was very disappointed. Overall, I did like the book and enjoyed the story, I just wish it had a clearer ending so I wasn't left to wonder what happened to the characters' lives. 3.5 stars.
silverheron on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair A NovelBy Christina SchwarzDoubleday, PublisherISBN: 978-0-385-51029-5I originally was interested in reading this book because of the title and the location. I was born and raised in North Eastern Ohio in 1962 so the life that the main characters of this book lived is very much like my memories of growing up.On the first look this book is about adultery but it goes a lot deeper than that. There are two main time lines that take place and also an additional one thrown in just for some added flavor. Sometimes keeping these time lines clear can be difficult since a few of the characters show up in more than one time line but they have changed just enough that you need to double check often to see who it is that is being referred to. I found that the book grabbed me right away with just enough information to keep me reading to find out what happens. The main time frame of the book actually takes place over one morning and afternoon. This being said you realize that much of the book is filled with background information and time to get to know and understand the motivations behind the many characters.There are two groups of characters in this book that you discover early on are two generations of several families in one small town. It seems that what happens to them is seemingly unrelated. The 1960¿s time line has mystery and revenge. The later time line has adultery. Other than the fact that the people are related you find yourself wondering why they are important to each other. This I think is where a reader will benefit if they have a little bit of life behind them. The reason I say this is that while on the outside this is a book about all of the things listed above, on closer examination this is a book about life and how things can often go wrong. What is happening to the main characters Ginny and Jon is something that is not new. These are issues that many of us will face in some way in our lives whether or not we want to admit it or not. When we are younger we often think that our parents have no idea what the ¿real world¿ is like but as we get older we realize the valuable resource they are and often have overcome even greater self-imposed obstacles than we had. I liked the fact that this book shows the different paths that people can choose when hardship hits and how that will ultimately impact the rest of their lives.The ending is not at all what I expected. I did not like it at first. I did however come to love the ending once I had some time to think about it. I found this book to be very thought provoking. The writing was well done and I don¿t think William Faulkner could have done a better job with the time lines. If you are looking for a book to just be fluff about adultery you will find it in this book. But, it you want to look for something deeper you will also find it in this book. Open up to these characters all of whom are just trying to find their way through a difficult world. I think a reader who looks will find much deeper messages here than they would have realized on the first look. Recommended
dulcibelle on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I'm conflicted about this book. I didn't like any of the characters; they all seem to be refugees from a soap opera. You have the philandering husband (I just can't help myself), the "innocent" other woman (I'm not doing anything wrong), the clueless wife, the manipulative mother, and on and on. As much as I hated the characters, I just couldn't put the book down. Schwarz is a powerful enough writer that I just HAD to finish the book. And, I'll have to check out some of her other books sometime. She's just that good.
kellyn on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I found this book hard to appreciate on its own because I kept expecting it to be as good as Drowning Ruth; I'm glad I read it but it is not one I will read again and likely will not recommend to others.
efoltz on LibraryThing 27 days ago
The characters seemed depressing and frequently making bad choices and being clueless about what they want in life. The book took months to finish and I dreaded reading it frequently.
phyllis.shepherd on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I agree with many of the points made by previous reviewers: I found it a bit confusing, but I felt compelled to finish it. I also thought that there was perhaps too much local color. I found myself anticipating what familiar landmark would appear next. For someone who grew up in the Madison area, the book's setting does ring true, however.
zibilee on LibraryThing 27 days ago
So Long at the Fair is the story of pivotal day in the Life of Jon and Ginny. The couple are high school sweethearts who found their connection due to a devastating accident and have been married for several years. Ginny is a lovable pack rat whose gardening business is beginning to flourish, while Jon is a typical type-A advertising executive, driven and focused on Freddi, a woman outside of their marriage. The novel frames an intense day when Jon must decide whether to abandon his fledgling affair, or to continue it and leave Ginny behind. Sprinkled throughout this story is the story of Bud and Marie, Jon's parents, whose actions are told in flashback. Bud and Marie's actions have had repercussions that have impacted Jon and Ginny's life, and brought them where they are today. As the couple spends the day separated by an argument, both examine the relationship and and remember the events that ultimately brought them together. In between we learn of Freddi's attempts to dissuade a persistent admirer who doesn't seem to know when to let go, and Ginny's decision to do business with a man who has a shadowy connection to her past.This book had a strange effect on me. I found the tenuous construction of the plot to be very difficult to keep track of. Many times it was confusing as to when in the specific time period action was taking place, or who the characters were in relation to one another. This was particularly so in the flashback portions of the book. The modern sections were more easily construed, but those sections had their difficulties as well. In particular, the way the back story was woven together was a little annoying. Instead of getting the full story at one time, the author chose to distribute the information in several bits, alternating between Jon and Ginny. Many of the secondary characters seemed to be underdeveloped and hazy as well, and I found most of the characters in this book to be very unlikable, especially Freddi. She seemed to have quite an attitude of self-importance, and her personality teetered between smugness and insecurity for most of the book. The male characters too were unsatisfying, as I found them to be unfeeling and somewhat uncommunicative. The only character that I felt any affinity for was Ginny; she seemed to be more expressive and her motives were more realistic. It is possible that the instances of infidelity were what turned me off in this book, but I rather think it was the way the situation was portrayed and the callousness of the characters that bothered me. Despite all this, I found that the story moved along with a great amount of force and direction, and I was compelled to keep reading. The author did a good job of maintaining the tension and urgency of the story despite the structural and character flaws. The ending was somewhat of a slow deflation of the story, and I think in some ways it worked, but in others it ways was anticlimactic. I am of two minds about the ending of this book because it gives the reader the opportunity to draw their own conclusions as to what happens next, but at the same time, after following the events leading up to the moment, it seems a bit of a cop-out for the resolution to be withheld.All in all I found this book to be one I liked very much, and at the same time not at all. There was a lot going on structurally that I felt could have been done more evenly and efficiently, but at the same time there was a great driving force behind the narrative that kept me focused on the important elements of the story. I found that immediately after finishing the book I felt cold towards it, yet after a few days of thinking and digesting it, I liked it more. I would recommend this book with one caveat: this book needs to be appreciated as a whole, because the individual parts can be dissatisfying on their own.
carmarie on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I really enjoyed this book. It became a little confusing at times when she would flash us back to 1963 and we had to kind of untangle who people were and who their children turned out to be. But, a clever story...although the ending left us hanging. Ugh.
leadmomma on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Do you ever have really high expectations and feel frustrated that a book doesn't meet them? Do you ever feel like an author with high expectations put on them feels like they have to make their work complicated in order to catch people's attention. That's how I felt about this book. I really wanted to like it and struggled through the whole book. But I found the characters hard to like and the storyline difficult to follow. I like mystery in the storyline and even a little headscratching is ok - but this was not done well enough for me to follow or understand.
fig2 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
A study of a marriage on the knife-edge of crisis. During one day, Ginny and Jon consider their marriage and the long reach of the past disaster that brought them together. Suspenseful with a surprise ending.
laws on LibraryThing 28 days ago
The story is about Jon and Ginny a married couple , who were high school sweethearts. Jon and Ginny have a long history together. Jon is having an affair with someone he works with and is torn between ending the affair or his marriage. This all happens on one day, a Saturday. Jon asks Ginny to go with him the fair but she is busy working and declines his offer. Jon is mad and leaves. He heads over to his mistress's apt. and they end up to going to the fair. Low and behold Ginny changes her and goes to the fair as well. I found the changing between the chapters,from past to present and vise versa to be very confusing. It made me not like the story as much. The best part of the story was at the end when Ginny answers her cell and notices the call is from Freddi, there goes her fears about Jon having an affair?
coolmama on LibraryThing 28 days ago
Adultery as told through 3 couples. 2 in the 1960s and one in the 1990s and related to the earlier groups.interesting, told through different perspectives, non-linear.
compulsivereaderSC More than 1 year ago
But it didn't. Huge disappointment from a good writer. The characters are flimsy, the plot is convoluted, and the ending just plain sucks.
Mtschanz More than 1 year ago
I must admit that the beginning of the book really grabbed me. I found the writing style interesting and it definitely kept me on my toes. The characters are genuine and they really bring you into the story and the emotions that each one is feeling while you're reading. Saying all that, it seemed like the book was building and building up to this incredibly touching and emotional ending, but to me, it fell seriously flat. I'm not going to give anything away because, as I said, the writing style is great, but I was expecting much more at the end. Enjoy it for the writing style, but try not to be too disappointed about the ending,
Dulcibelle More than 1 year ago
(review of an uncorrected proof)
I'm conflicted about this book. I didn't like any of the characters; they all seem to be refugees from a soap opera. You have the philandering husband (I just can't help myself), the "innocent" other woman (I'm not doing anything wrong), the clueless wife, the manipulative mother, and on and on. Yet, as much as I hated the characters, I just couldn't put the book down. Schwarz is a powerful enough writer that I just HAD to finish the book. And, I'll have to check out some of her other books sometime. She's just that good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too much back and forth, refered to the characters by their first name, than their last name. Too hard to keep them straight. Maybe if they were more likeable it would have been easier. Still trying to figure out why i read the whole book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Christina Schwarz's latest takes place in small town Wisconsin. This is also the setting for her Oprah tagged, best selling novel Drowning Ruth. The entire novel takes place over the course of one day. Jon is having an affair with Freddi, a woman her works with. His wife of many years, Ginny, senses that something is a bit off, but chooses to ignore her feelings. This is the day that Jon decides to end either his marriage or his affair. Scattered throughout the book are chapters from the past. Ginny and Jon live in the same town they grew up in . Their families live there as well. These past chapters slowly expose secrets over the course of the book that are affecting the present. I did find this a bit distracting as I had to flip back and forth to make sure I was tracking the backstory correctly. The characters from the past are introduced into the present, but you really have to be on your toes to catch who's who. Schwarz's forté is the exploration of relationships. Her dialogues expertly expose the hidden feelings, desires and failures of her characters. Her descriptions of both people and settings draw strong pictures. So Long at the Fair ends ambiguously. Each reader will draw their own conclusion. I did find the cover art ambigous as well. After reading the book, I found the title to be a bit of an uninspired afterthought as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The main story in So Long at the Fair takes place over the course of one Saturday in the lives of Jon and Ginny, a married couple who had been high school sweethearts. Their relationship has stagnated and Jon is having an affair with a co-worker, which has progressed to the point where Jon must make his choice between the two women. Jon begins his day hoping to re-ignite his passion for Ginny during a day-long road trip to a nearby county fair, but ends up stomping off in anger to spend the day with his paramour (Freddi) instead, when he finds out that Ginny wants to re-schedule their outing because of previous business commitments. In addition to the main story, we have the flashback story of Jon¿s parents (Clark and Hattie) and Ginny¿s parents (Bud and Marie) in 1963 as Clark and Marie try to force Bud into a confrontation with the local playboy (Walt) who refuses to admit that he raped Hattie. Through the course of this single Saturday, both Ginny and Jon reminisce about their high school days and the accident that injured Ginny and brought the two of them together. Meanwhile a second co-worker of Jon¿s (whose wife previously cheated on him) conveniently sets the stage for Ginny to discover Jon¿s affair with Freddi. And if that isn¿t enough going on already, an old boyfriend of Freddi¿s is stalking her (and now Jon) in a deluded attempt to win her back. Obviously there is a lot going on in this book and sometimes I found it necessary to go back and re-read a chapter or two to make sure I had the story and the relationships straight. Each story ends with a subtle twist and a sense of openness that makes it seem more like the beginning of a story which is yet to come.