A few years ago I was enticed by Charlotte Rogan's debut novel, The Lifeboat. A pretty cover and an intriguing premise drew me in; bad reviews and a strange similarity to a John Steinbeck story pushed me away. Ultimately, it was the Steinbeck connection that kept me at bay. Wasn't Steinbeck's script, also named The Lifeboat, pretty much the same story? One cannot mirror greatness and expect to measure up.
Now and Again, Rogan's second novel, hooked me with the same elements. I liked the cover. I liked the premise. And this time I wasn't going to let bad reviews, of which there were many, get in the way. With my previous experience, I should've known Now and Again would remind me of a bad Steinbeck rip-off.
Now and Again started off well. I liked the characters, their voices, and felt, with few exceptions, that they were mostly handled with skill. Even as far as half way into the book, I felt like Rogan might have put together an interesting read. But then the comparison became evident. This time, it was the The Grapes of Wrath. No, Now and Again bears no similarity to Steinbeck's Pulitzer-winning novel in plot or subject. In fact, in most ways, the two novels have nothing to do with one another. Where the comparison is drawn, however, is in the commentary on social injustices. The Grapes of Wrath blew apart corporate greed. It exposed a nation to the plight of migrant workers. It moved and the world felt it. Now and Again tries in similar fashion to be a social commentary... on everything. EVERYTHING. Rogan tackles war, religion, technology, ethnicity, environmentalism, television, pharmaceuticals, greyhounds, … (I'm just scratching the surface) and the result of such a wide spread blanket of injustice covers nothing. It unravels. Even though I believe passionately in many of the topics Rogan covered, I could care less with this presentation. The weight of too many causes ripped a hole through the middle of this story. And when there's a hole in the middle of a book, one cannot help but see the author, writing furiously, on the other side.