I’m a sucker for a good illustrated cover – and The Cactus has a gorgeous one – however, after reading the book, I can unequivocally say that the cover is misleading. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this one – I picked it up because it was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. Typically, her selections are pretty darn good, but unfortunately, this one was a huge miss.
Even the prickliest cactus has its flower…For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.When she learns that her mother’s will inexplicably favors her indolent brother, Edward, Susan’s already dismantled world is sent flying into a tailspin. As Susan’s due date draws near and her family problems become increasingly difficult to ignore, Susan finds help and self-discovery in the most unlikely of places.
The entire time I read this, all I could think was that this concept would work much better as a short story or a novella. The plot was stretched very, very thin – there was definitely not enough to create a compelling novel length story. Even worse, the story was really predictable – the big twist was easy to see a mile away. I read this book in audiobook format – and normally I find audiobooks easier to read and harder to DNF. In the case of The Cactus, if I had been reading this book in print, I would have put it down after the first fifty pages. Honestly, I wish I had DNF’d it and saved myself the time.
Susan was a relentlessly unpleasant character – everything she did was nasty and uncalled for. Even worse, she constantly tried to justify her disgusting attitude – often trying to pass it off as following social norms or being formal/polite with people. Honestly, all these cop outs made her even less likable (if that’s possible) since by making excuses, she was implicitly acknowledging the fact that she was a terrible person. Throughout the entire book, I kept waiting for Susan to finally begin her redemption arc, but that never happened.
Susan’s family was honestly even worse than her – her mother lied to her her entire life, her brother harassed her relentlessly, and her extended family treated her life like a cheap soap opera. The book kicks off with the news of Susan’s mother’s death, but she remains a presence for the rest of the novel. Her mother blatantly favored Susan’s brother over Susan her entire life – something Susan was willfully ignorant to. Susan spends most of the novel trying to prove that her mother loved her more than her brother, even though it was painfully obvious that this was not the case. This really made the book hard to read: both because of the obvious secondhand embarrassment and because of how painfully obvious the outcome was.
The lack of a redemption arc for the main character and the absence of any likable characters was really off-putting. I didn’t enjoy anything about this book – the plot was lackluster, the characters were obnoxious, and the writing quality was poor. I would strongly recommend that fans of romance give this one a pass – I’m planning on returning my copy. 1/5