The novel's title is apt as Christian dogma and African tribal customs, here, create a combustible mix. The story is told from the various viewpoints...moreThe novel's title is apt as Christian dogma and African tribal customs, here, create a combustible mix. The story is told from the various viewpoints of the wife and daughters of an evangelical, Baptist missionary who views the Congo as his singular chance to remake Eden. If Christianity is supposed to be a compassionate faith, little of that is shown here. The quick chapters and distinct voices make this novel hard to put down once begun. The core story of this family and their experiences in Africa give way to the greater geo-political issues and became a revelation. I don't think the term "American" will ever mean quite the same thing to me or evoke the same feelings.
A wonderfully poetic read that takes on special significance during this election cycle. I really wish I could give a copy to each of the Presidential candidates and see what THEY get out of the book!
As a parent, I worry about a lot of things, but I can't say that worrying that my daughter is someday going to turn out to have been my son all along...moreAs a parent, I worry about a lot of things, but I can't say that worrying that my daughter is someday going to turn out to have been my son all along has made my list. Wow.
I enjoyed the novel and apprciated the courage of the protaganist to "bare all" both literally and figuratively. His family history is fascinating although I'm still not convinced such family relationships are possible much less long-lasting. Incest is nothing new, but I can't see an ordinary village brother/sister coupling in such a matter-of-fact way. Maybe I'm naive. I also couldn't seem to get past his brother's name: Chapter Eleven. I kept feeling like I was missing something there and it was annoying.
But for all the family history and dishing, I picked up the book thinking it would explore intersexual gender issues and I was disappointed. This was a book about ethnic struggles and assimilation rather than sexuality. The evolution from Calliope to present day-Cal was abridged to say the least. Regardless, it makes for interesting conversation: is gender behaviour learned or biological? Don't expect the author to tell you.(less)
My only recommendation is to stick with the book and read it through to the very end and I think you will be glad you did. I had a difficult time gett...moreMy only recommendation is to stick with the book and read it through to the very end and I think you will be glad you did. I had a difficult time getting into the book and almost put it down a couple of times. The first-person plural voice was distracting ("we", who?) but it completely pays off with the final sentence. The first quarter of the book was fine: bland, funny (in a humorless grin sort of way), but unengaging. For me, the tone changed about half-way through the book and I started to recognize that there was some substance to the suit so to speak.
We can all recognize and identify with the day-to-day soap opera we call "The Office," but how well do we really know the people we see for the majority of our day? For people bound together so closely, how can we know so little of each other? Just as in the book, I can rattle off all sorts of intimate details about those I work with, but their true selves still remain a mystery to me. The workers from the novel categorize and pigeon-hole their co-workers, but those labels are proved wrong time and again and encouraged me to re-examine my preconceptions and work-relationships.
The novel is an enjoyable read if you are just looking for a light, comedic office depiction, but if you look beneath the surface you would see a story about relationships, about hope, about people, about the fishbowl we find ourselves in everyday...about life. The author didn't just go for the "evil corporate America" gag, but showed a community of characters with a heart and a soul that gives the reader a "been there-done that" empathy. The story left me caring about this ill-favored, motley group of people and their petty toilings.
This is a wonderfully crafted story about two 18th century Chinese girls who are ritually paired together to serve as each other's deepest friend/conf...moreThis is a wonderfully crafted story about two 18th century Chinese girls who are ritually paired together to serve as each other's deepest friend/confidant/anchor as they age through the different phases and hardships of womanhood.
As a 21st century Western woman, the story and its characters initially read as totally alien. As an outsider, one reads about the pain and importance of footbinding and the complete isolation and subjugation of the female sphere. It's hard to imagine, and difficult reading, but I was struck with the thought that the narrator and I may not be as different as first imagined. Women universally seek love, friendship, and fulfillment and too often find themselves in conflict with the limitations placed upon them. Many stuggle, but many do not and ultimately most submit themselves to their expected roles in society.
With these questions swirling in my head, I felt that this book gave a probing look into another culture and the lives of women centuries ago that still has relevance to women's lives today. (less)
This is a deeply emotional tale of Kate and Anna, two sisters who are connected by more than blood. Actually, it's blood, and cord blood, and bone mar...moreThis is a deeply emotional tale of Kate and Anna, two sisters who are connected by more than blood. Actually, it's blood, and cord blood, and bone marrow, and too many other things that I can't pronounce much less spell. Kate has an aggressive and rare form of leukemia and Anna was conceived to be an ideal donor match for Kate. After many years and relapses, Kate now is in need of a kidney and Anna has decided to sue her parents in a bid to control her own medical destiny--even though she knows the cost to her sister.
The story is told through the voices of the many people Anna's decision affects. The author touches on a number of controversial subjects: stem cell research, "designer" babies, medical ethics. The story is designed to keep the reader questioning his/her own moral leanings and tug at the heartstrings. It's an easy read and one that I very much enjoyed until the soap opera-style ending. I think the author should have left well enough alone and stayed with the intense family dynamic and how that has played out over time, rather than drift into melodrama. Most people enjoy a twist ending, I just felt that it lessoned that impact of the complex conflict that centers the story. (less)
I love it when a book is as wonderful as the buzz claims it to be. It's amazing that a first-time author could pull off a story this thoughtful and nu...moreI love it when a book is as wonderful as the buzz claims it to be. It's amazing that a first-time author could pull off a story this thoughtful and nuanced. Frank Lloyd Wright is a well-known God of Architecture, but the "real" Frank is revealed here to be temptestuous, self-absorbed, brilliant, and a non-conformist down to his very toes. Love him, or hate him, he found his intellectual and spiritual equal in the form of Mamah Cheney, the wife of client, Edwin Cheney. Mamah is the protagonist, but no synopsis here could do her journey, or her lifechoices, justice.
As an evolving feminist and completely besotted mother, I was of two minds reading this novel. My two minds could never really come to any agreement, but that is the strentgh of the story and the author's depictions of these two forceful personalities. There are no easy answers for Frank and Mamah, but it was riveting reading as the two of them blazed a path away from convention and toward personal freedom. (less)
This is the story of two girls caught up in the whirlwind of abuse and poverty. Luckily for me, the abuse is not...moreI. Did. Not. See. The Ending. Coming.
This is the story of two girls caught up in the whirlwind of abuse and poverty. Luckily for me, the abuse is not graphic, but it is not a "fun" read. There is a twist at the end that you won't see coming--at least I didn't. I had to go back and reread major portions just to make sure that I didn't miss anything!(less)
I'm being generous with my rating because I believe that the writer has talent, but I believe that this book was a poor showing of it. It's hard to wr...moreI'm being generous with my rating because I believe that the writer has talent, but I believe that this book was a poor showing of it. It's hard to write an accurate review of the novel without giving too many spoilers away. Suffice it to say that by the end of the story I knew less about the main character and this particular story than after I read the front dust cover synopsis.
Laurel Eastbrook, a wounded bird herself, becomes involved in piecing together the disjointed life of a recently deceased homeless man through his pictures. The characters of The Great Gatsby figure prominantly and the author asks the reader to take a number of leaps of faith that are never rewarded with adequate explanation. The main character immerses herself in a mystery that is only mysterious and dramatic to her. On page 1 she is a stoic survivor of an attempted rape/murder, working conscienciously at a homeless shelter, but by page 10 she's a lunatic Nancy Drew.
I finished the book believing that the author was trying hard to be clever just for the sake of being clever. It certainly wasn't the "thriller" that it claimed to be. I felt cheated and conned and I hope that isn't what the author was going for. In a nutshell: save yourself the mindf*@k and read something else. (less)
This is a novel where you get 2-for-1: A modern day murder mystery involving a rogue polygamist sect interpersed with a historical narrative written b...moreThis is a novel where you get 2-for-1: A modern day murder mystery involving a rogue polygamist sect interpersed with a historical narrative written by the rebellious 19th wife of Brigham Young. As the story progressed, I found myself much more interested in the story of the beginnings of the Morman Church and the memoirs of Ann Eliza Young, the so-called 19th wife, who ended up as a vocal opponent of polygamy. This is by no means a scholarly retelling of the Church's beliefs or history, but it does give the reader a glimpse into another world.(less)
Maybe I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age. I probably would have liked this book when I was 15 and I thought that anything with the word "abortioni...moreMaybe I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age. I probably would have liked this book when I was 15 and I thought that anything with the word "abortionist" in the title must be socially hip. At 15 I didn't really care about things like character development or a plausible plot. I mean, of course cops always risk their careers for the nubile nineteen-year-old girls (yes, I said girl) they are also investigating. Of course, smart, level-headed children get involved in unstable relationships and pornography and smoke pot with their straight-laced parents. I mean, not all parents were as square as mine, right?
Thankfully, I've gotten past all that and I'm tired of reading stuff like this. (less)
This is the story about three women in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. Two women are black domestics, and the third is a white, recent-graduate who wor...moreThis is the story about three women in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962. Two women are black domestics, and the third is a white, recent-graduate who works to tell their stories in her first efforts to write a book. I am usually suspicious when a white Southern women attempts to write in an African-American voice, but Stockett does an admirable job of getting the appropriate dialect down without being stereotypical or offensive.
By telling these women's stories, the author manages to address issues of race, feminism, and family. If only a percentage of things are true-to-life, it's a wonder that white Southerners weren't all poisoned over their Sunday brunches! It's eye-opening reading. (less)
This was the first book that I had to read on the sly because people would see me carrying this and want to talk about how life-changing the novel was...moreThis was the first book that I had to read on the sly because people would see me carrying this and want to talk about how life-changing the novel was. Unfortunately for them, I was reading this for a book group and certainly wouldn't categorize this as a great literary work. Of course, theologically, I can see how someone might be blown away by it---but since I'm not so inclined it left me flat. (less)