Cover Image: Strange Loops

Strange Loops

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley & Knopf Canada for this ARC.

I read this waaaaay back ago so I may need to re-read it. Regardless, here we go…

This book was messy. The relationships are so complex and the topics are so heavy that I know a 100% I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone.

I liked the faith questioning part, lots of the events and dynamics in the book truly make you question everything but there wasn’t much character development and books without much of this but full of triggers are not my cup of tea (we won’t talk about ALF, let me be, okay?) 

Overall, I think I didn’t enjoy it as much because books with (TW) grooming and minor/adult relations throw me back so be aware of this before reading it!
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4.5 - i enjoyed this way more than i thought i would, considering that i did not anticipate religion and belief to be at the center of the text. but it ended up turning out to be a book i find myself wanting to talk incessantly about, to justify and explain and defend and to criticize the characters and their actions. while it left me wanting more, it wasn't that it was lacking but rather, these characters were so complex and dimensional that i could have spent much longer delving into their relationships and their pitfalls. an unexpected book that i see myself raving about for a long long time
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I have given this book a 4/5 according to the reviews on Goodreads. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to read this book prior to the release date, as the file I downloaded would not work on my device. I look forward to purchasing it to read.
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Strange Loops by Liz Harmer is a sucker punch right to my heart.  All I can say is WOW!

About two twins, Francine and Philip, who's relationship begins to struggle as a pastor comes between them.  Both twins dive headfirst into religion, just for very different reasons.  This pastor changes who Francine and Philip are and become, but is one twin really good and one evil?  Can their estranged relationship be repaired, or are their lives to repeat on the same loop continuously?

This novel is a little bit family drama, a little bit literary fiction, a little bit faith questioning - all while being entwined in the dynamics of partnerships, motherhood and self reflection.  In short it is also one fantastic piece of art.

It is dark, stormy and twisted.  It made me think, question and feel.  

I was shocked by the ending: how much I yearned to cry for release; how badly I wanted to scream for the same reason.

Where lust and hatred combine, mix and separate again and again.

For fans of My Dark Vanessa, A Bit Much, Sharp Edges and What We Both Know.

Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the complimentary copy to read and review.
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In Strange Loops, Liz Harmer (of The Amateurs fame) once again impresses. The novel tells the story of Francine and her twin Philip, whose childhood bond has become strained in adulthood due to their differing life circumstances and a secret from the past. Strange Loops is that rare book with the prose of literary fiction and the the plot twists of a thriller. A must read.
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I found this novel intriguing, highly original and unexpected. Harmer references both Douglas Hofstadter and Roland Barthes, I found it an interesting exploration of some of their ideas in a clear, straightforward contemporary novel. I previously have found both of these thinkers (especially Barthes' A Lover’s Discourse) fascinating. The reader doesn't have to know Barthes' work or Hofstadter‘s theories on Strange Loops to follow this ultimately satisfying novel, but it does give greater depth of interpretation. Hofstadter’s views deal with interiority, what it is or its soulfulness.

Harmer’s aim here seems to mirror that question. A dysfunctional family, comprised of a set of twins and an older brother, their spouses, their offspring, and their parents, muddle along in their own strange loops, conversationally and behaviourally, the twins in particular looking for a way to untangle the mess they keep getting into. Early interdependence makes a pattern which is almost impossible to understand or break.

Harmer sets faith against secularism, as well as many other seeming dichotomies. The arguments, the births, the choice of partners all go into the making of these strange loops. The relationships she presents are definitely constructs and function in repetitive patterns with variations. That she makes the characters both seem alike to each other and still distinct is amazing in itself - a feat of character development right there. Kristal, Jaime, and her dad are variations on the same character, while Francine, Philip and her mother are repeated in each other. Alexander and Howie are two sides of the same figure, with varying aspects highlighted. For the most part, Harmer’s loops are clear to follow, but, in the beginning, I wanted to know more about the explosive family situation. A veer off into Philip's view slowed me down a bit. While Francine was vital and intriguing, Philip seemed lacklustre and boring. This inconsistency was the only drawback, however, and, as I learned more about Philip, I found his perspective in the novel important as the book raced to its end.

It is interesting to see how these ideas played out in a seemingly simple book on love, faith, family relationships and dysfunctions.

I think Harmer accomplishes her goals of meshing these deeper ideas into a thriller-like story of betrayal and identities.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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i didn’t enjoy this.

CW: adult/minor relations, suicide 

Plain & simple. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t the right audience for it but I found the characters extremely unrelatable and hard to connect with. They weren’t necessarily (completely) unlikeable but they weren’t enjoyable either nor did they seem to possess any growth. 

The plot itself was strange (hence the title?) and boring and the writing felt clinical. This wasn’t for me, unfortunately. 

Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A story of Francine and Philip who are twins, growing up in phases from the storyline of this novel and each has life experiences of their own.  Sibling struggles present, some struggles, misunderstanding, a family group dynamics which brought them into a spiral of arguments and dissagrements.

There were segments in the story that I find confusing but overall the read is satisfying and short enough to finish in one sitting.

Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Random House, Knopf Canada for the ARC.

3.4/5 stars
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This was..... a strange read. Arguably, it made me feel a lot. How ever, i did find it hard to read in term of wanting to know where these characters end up. In a way, I didn't feel bad or want to feel anything towards them. It was an interesting read because it opened my eyes to a plot/story I'd never really explored. I didn't hate it, but I didnt LOVE it.
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Although I would not put this book on the top of my list, it was enjoyable in the sense that it had a nice pace and the story was easy to follow. I believe many may enjoy this book and I wouldn’t be shocked if I saw it on booktok along with the “problematic characters, and messy relationships” books. The characters tend to be unlikeable and if you have an issue with that I would not recommend that you read it.
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I was so grateful to get an ARC of Liz Harmer’s forthcoming novel Strange Loops from NetGalley. I adored The Amateurs and its backdrop of a dystopian Hamilton so much. And even if the book never comes out and says it’s Hamilton specifically, Hamiltonians definitely recognized our ruined city in its pages. And so I eagerly anticipated her new novel.

In Strange Loops, Harmer may also be channeling Hamilton although it’s not quite as obvious, and while this novel is less dystopian and more current, and recent past than future, there is still a lot of ruin and destruction at the heart of the novel which ticks all the boxes for me. 

Francine and Philip are twins in their 30s and no matter what the situation is, whether it’s their shared DNA, shared characteristics, their similarities, or the fact that they are siblings, they manage to bring out the worst in each other. This wasn’t always the case, though.

A rift in their teen years leading to a betrayal that was never resolved and a deeply dysfunctional family, (complete with an overbearing, cruel mother who seems to fan the flames between the twins) creates the perfect storm between the adult Francine and Philip who can’t ever be in the same room together without an ensuing battle of sharp words and purposely hurt feelings. 

Told from both character’s perspectives, although it is Francine’s story we mostly follow, the novel jumps from the present day, back five years to a disastrous family party, back further to the twins in their high school years, and forward to the present again, Strange Loops presents a mesmerizing story of a woman on the brink of disaster. 

Present-day Francine is a married mother of two and is teaching high school while working toward her PhD, a dissertation on Mary Magdalene in the garden after Christ’s crucifixion. Francine feels stuck—in her job, her marriage, in everything—and her PhD is progressing slowly because while she knows there is something there, she just can’t quite see it yet. And so we watch as she makes a series of bad decisions all the while conscious of what she’s doing yet completely unable to stop it, to stop the ruination of her life. And ruination, it seems, is what she craves: 

“It turned out she did want her life to be a tragedy, just as Howie had once suggested: she didn’t want an ordinary life. She wanted either rapture or ruin, and now there was no having either. There was no relief in this knowledge, only resignation that things would go on in this horrible way forever.” 

Harmer’s prose propels Francine and those around her with a gale force. There is a foreboding from the very beginning, a sort of calm before the storm, and the reader has a sense that things aren’t going to end well for Francine, for anyone. It’s a “hold your breath until the story resolves” or a “watch the wreckage from between your fingers” kind of novel. It is utterly exhilarating and the exhilaration doesn’t let up until the very last page.
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Francine and her twin brother Philip are caught in a pattern, with Francine playing the role of sinner, while Philip holds his religious and moral superiority over her, neither of them ever growing up. Flipping back and forth between their time as teenagers to adulthood, the novel explores their relationship with each other, with family, with friends, and with lovers.

I struggled with this book. I was unable to find any sympathy for any of the characters, except perhaps the spouses and children unwittingly being taken along for the ride. Every person seemed unable to escape their teenage years and grow into adults.
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