Morgan, the hotel manager of Four Seasons, still misses her sister, who died almost twenty-four years ago, and is contemplating breaking up with her methodical boyfriend. As she meets with her clients and customers, interviews applicants and does room searches, she comes across several interesting women, each with her own story to tell. Some of them are not who they appear to be, and most, like her, are looking for some closure to their problems, some happiness and human connection. Through it all, the Four Seasons hotel bears witness to the most trying moments in their lives, as they piece together their issues with family, love, sex and ambition.
Based Upon Availability is a very character-oriented story, featuring eight apparently unrelated or unconnected women, sharing only two common things - the Four Seasons hotel and a disappointment with their life. This book holds testament to the adage that there is more than meets the eye. In the end, a rich and intricate web of life is created, as Alix Strauss tells the story of these eight women and brings them together through an intricate web.
Reading this book was a lot like watching the movie, Vantage Point. In fact, this theme of several narrowly connected people in a story coming together and remaining thus connected, usually works well in a movie. The reader initially sees the world through Morgan's eyes. Having been inside Morgan's head during the first one-third of the book, the reader is also privy to Morgan's thoughts, suspicions and beliefs. And then the camera shifts and starts focusing on a certain piece of this panorama through a different pair of lens. Some things that Morgan saw in passing become the focus and we see how the significance of that event or person changes in light of its new meaning.
I was not too impressed with Morgan's character. I found her very tiresome. She was one of those people who are empathetic on the inside, but appear remote and professional to the people around her. She fails to connect much with anyone on an emotional level. She is understandably upset about being single while nearing her thirty-third birthday, she wants to experience the joy of motherhood, and she is still not over the death of her sister. As she meets a new person, she aches to be a part of that person at some level, and wishes for something that person has, which she is lacking in. When however, that person's story is revealed, we sometimes see a picture so different from what Morgan painted. And I loved this aspect of this book because it is a reminder that we are not always right just because we saw something. It is enlightening to see a different rational explanation for the same picture.
The other characters were a lot more interesting than Morgan. In some queer way, Morgan connects with all of them. Some, like Anne, Trish, and Louise are a prominent fixture in Morgan's thoughts. Anne, who works at Four Seasons and is dating a guy she met on the internet, is fired. Trish wants to hold a gallery in the hotel. Drug-addicted rock star, Louise, is being checked into the hotel by her friend, to clean up her drug addiction. The others are more faint and have an almost cameo-like appearance. Franny is an acquaintance of a man Morgan had drinks with. Sheila comes to her uncle's funeral. Ellen is interviewed by Morgan for an interior deco position. Robin is known to Morgan by face only through certain circumstances that befall Robin's sister.
It was very interesting reading from the perspectives of the other women, and how they come to be connected to Morgan and the Four Seasons hotel. Alix Strauss has brilliantly written the intersecting seven stories, each spanning only a few pages. The long-drawn out narration of Morgan's story, while necessary, bored me ultimately because I couldn't see where it was going. Halfway through her narration, I was already ready for another character to come in focus. While it helped me get an idea of Morgan's troubles, I found all that prose too much to read. Also this isn't exactly a fast read, and I won't recommend you read it fast either. This book is best appreciated when the reader feels the strings holding the different characters together, and looks out for the several hints and appearances of the other characters in each perspective.
I also found that I could easily relate to all the eight women, even though their lives are radically different from mine. Each of them go through the same problems that we are afflicted by at least once. In the end, they all ache to be loved, and the battles they go through are typical of most people.
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I received this book for free from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.