A missing girl. A distraught family. In the hands of another writer, this might have turned into just another thriller. However, Stewart O'Nan isn't aA missing girl. A distraught family. In the hands of another writer, this might have turned into just another thriller. However, Stewart O'Nan isn't as interested in the thriller aspect as he is in what sort of effect an unexplained disappearance of a loved one has on friends and family. Shifting narrative points of view as the story develops, the story left me with a sense of grief, longing and confusion ... just like it does to the Larsen family. When I reached the end, I was as lost by the "incoherence" of life as Ed Larsen. This is my second book by O'Nan (the first being The Odds, which I wasn't a huge fan of), and I plan on reading more....more
Before this book, I’d read another John Green book, Looking for Alaska, that everyone seemed to adore but left me feeling cold. So when I started seeiBefore this book, I’d read another John Green book, Looking for Alaska, that everyone seemed to adore but left me feeling cold. So when I started seeing stellar reviews for this book, I was a bit skeptical that it would entrance me as much as everyone else. Still, way too many bloggers that I trusted absolutely raved about how amazing and uplifting and funny and sad this book was that I felt I had to give it a chance. So I did. (And I stayed up way too late last night finishing it.) As I wiped away my tears and hit the sack, it occurred to me that the perfect way to review this book would be to capture my feelings about it as the five stages of grief. (Very apropos given that the subject of the book is teenagers with cancer.) So before I forget this brilliant, middle of the night inspiration, I’m writing my review the day after finishing the book (which is pretty much unprecedented for me as I still have reviews to write for books I read in APRIL!!!)
Stage 1: Denial (before starting the book): This book can’t possibly be as good as everyone says it is. How can a book about teens with cancer be funny and uplifting yet also heart-breaking? And a YA book that really moves me? Bah humbug. I’m too old for these YA books. They disappoint me more often than not.
Stage 2: Anger (within the first five chapters): Damn it! This book is brilliant! I’m loving Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters and their witty repartee and view of life. Why did I wait so long to read this? Why did I delay? Why didn’t I listen? What if I’d decided to chump out and not read this and MISSED IT? Arggghhh…you stupid fool!
Stage 3: Bargaining (about the middle of the book): I don’t want this book to end. I want to stay with these characters longer. If I slow down my reading pace, I can spread the delight of this book out over a few days. Maybe if I start another book, this book will never end and I’ll get to read it for days and days.
Stage 4: Depression (at about the three-quarter mark until the end): I can barely read through my tears and my smiles. I’m having my heart broken by this author over and over. Such emotion and pain and laughter and feelings of truth and beauty. Each page takes me closer to the end of this amazing gem of a book and I don’t want that to happen.
Stage 5: Acceptance (now): Everyone was right. The Fault In Our Stars is a truly special book that transcends the YA genre and speaks to the human heart. It is fierce and funny and unapologetic and realistic and it broke my heart in the best of ways. A true five-star read and one I’m grateful to have read. Thank you, John Green. I bow before you in your brilliance. You’re no Peter Van Houten!...more
A few preliminary words: Sometimes when I sit down to write a book review, I end up writing an unconventional review. This is one of those times. HoweA few preliminary words: Sometimes when I sit down to write a book review, I end up writing an unconventional review. This is one of those times. However, I do want to suggest that, if you decide to read this book, you get a paper copy so you can fully appreciate the photos that are used throughout the book. I read this on my Kindle and only saw stuff in black and white. Then Erin at Erin Reads (who hosted a Buddy Read for this book in June) posted a photo of one of the pages in the book and it made me wish I’d read the paper version (or perhaps on Nook Color). Just a bit of advice. Now on with the review (of sorts).
We meet again! I really thought it was over between us because of my disappointment—almost bordering on intense dislike—with your first book, Everything Is Illuminated. But I decided to give you a second chance based on the brief glimpses of brilliance that I saw in that book. I’m so glad I did because Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a much better reading experience—funny, touching, heart-breaking, and experimental in a less annoying way. Best of all, you created some truly memorable characters (oh … I how loved Oskar!) and dealt with a difficult topic (September 11th) in a way that was respectful but true to your artistic vision.
First of all, let me say how impressed I am that you felt comfortable taking on a topic like 9/11. I haven’t read too many novels that dealt with a fictionalized version of 9/11, and I think that is because it is imperative that an author deals with it respectfully but in a way that is true to the characters. How daring of you to take it on! We all bring our own images, memories, thoughts and experiences of 9/11 with us, and I think it such a loaded topic that it would be tricky for a novelist to tackle it head-on. (I’ve only seen it touched on tangentially.) But you chose to do so—going so far as to use (what I believe were) actual photos from 9/11 in the book. (By the way, kudos for the “multimedia” aspect of the book. Your use of photos throughout the book was interesting—particularly the multi-colored signatures on the notepad that Oskar finds and the photos used at the very end of the book. And the way you used the photos at the end of the book just did me in and left me in tears. Well done.)
I think the fact that you used Oskar’s loss of his dad in the collapse of the Twin Towers and tied that to the losses that his grandparents experienced during the Dresden firebombing helped to make this book more about the nature of loss and grief than simply a “9/11 novel.” People have been dying senselessly from acts of violence throughout the ages. It is catastrophic to the people left behind regardless of the scale of the violence or whether the violence was during a “sanctioned” war. Loss of all types eviscerates you and causes you to lose your way. By telling Oskar’s story and his grandparents stories concurrently, we come to feel and learn so much about the nature of loss, grief, regret and guilt of survivors. From Oskar’s search for the lock to his grandfather’s loss of words, I thought you made the desperation of grief tangible and vivid.
This could have been a very depressing book, but your choice to make Oskar such an interesting and quirky character was a stroke of genius. Although he seems wildly precocious for his age (he’d get along just fine with Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce!), I fell in love with Oskar from the moment I met him. From his endearing way of cursing (Shittake!) to his creation of unique jewelry (a Morse code bracelet with his father’s last words) to his wild inventions that were simultaneously amusing and heart-breaking, I fell for Oskar hard and fast. Choosing to make him a young boy who isn’t fully cognizant of all that is going on around him helped to add an element of mystery to the story as well. Why is his mother seemingly so unconcerned with his whereabouts? Why does she seem oblivious to his needs and feelings of loss about his father? When her motives and actions were fully explained, I felt such a rush of love for his mother and was so relieved that my beloved Oskar was surrounded by such love, empathy and wisdom. You handled this dynamic perfectly and revealed the reality of the situation in a way that felt like the pieces of the puzzle finally coming together.
Often in books that feature a young protagonist like Oskar, the adults are not well-drawn, but that wasn’t the case in this book. The letters from his grandfather to his unborn son and the memories of his grandmother helped create a rich back story for Oskar’s family. And, although we never get to meet him, I felt like I knew Oskar’s dad. What a loving father figure you created! I fully understood why Oskar’s world fell apart with his dad’s death, and why he would believe that his father had left him an elaborate mystery to be solved.
But don’t go getting a swelled head! I did have some quibbles with the book that I’d like to bring up. First of all, having incredibly long sentences with few or no paragraph breaks and little punctuation is wearying for a reader! Sometimes when I was reading the letters from Oskar’s grandfather, I got a bit annoyed at you. Would a few periods or paragraphs kill you? I think not!
Second of all, extended dialogue without line breaks is difficult to read. By running it all together in one big paragraph and using only quotation marks, it became difficult for this reader to know who was saying what. It isn’t a sin to follow the basics of grammar and line spacing! It helps the reader fall more completely into your lovingly created world. Instead, I found myself having to backtrack and reread these sections so I could figure out who was saying what. Whenever a reader gets frustrated or removed from the flow of the story because of an author’s refusal to adhere to basic syntax and sentence structure, I think it is a big disservice to both the reader and the story.
Finally, I spent the first third of the book confused about whose stories were being told in the letters and the memories. Once I finally Googled a synopsis of the book and realized who was writing what, things clicked into place a bit more. But I don’t think I should have had to do that. I think you could have made it a bit clearer. To be brutally honest, the best and most fluid writing in the whole book was always in Oskar’s sections. Just write like that!!!
But, in the end, I forgive you because you created a touching work of art with this book that I’ll remember for quite some time. And whenever I fall hard for a character like I fell for Oskar, the creator will always get my devotion. So, Jonathan, we’re back on. I’ll be checking out your Eating Animals next. I hope that goes well, and you’ve worked out your need to sabotage your own stories with sentence structures that grate on your reader’s nerves. Of course, that is just one reader’s opinion. I’m sure there are plenty out there that just revel in all that you do.
My Rating: 3.5 stars Brief Summary: Trillin's wife Alice made frequent appearances in his writing, and it was obvious he loved her fully and deeply. ThMy Rating: 3.5 stars Brief Summary: Trillin's wife Alice made frequent appearances in his writing, and it was obvious he loved her fully and deeply. This little book, written five years after her death from cancer, chronicles their love story, paints a portrait of a talented and generous woman, and pays tribute to the woman of whom Trillin wrote: "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice." Brief Thoughts: Touching and often amusing (as Trillin often is), this book is a lovely tribute to a special woman and a tender look at a strong marriage between soul mates. If only all of us could be so lucky to be loved and adored like Alice obviously was....more
On the surface, Jenna Rosen has it all: a husband who loves her, a comfortable life in Seattle, and good looks. But Jenna is troubled; iStory Overview
On the surface, Jenna Rosen has it all: a husband who loves her, a comfortable life in Seattle, and good looks. But Jenna is troubled; it shows in her excessive drinking, Valium addiction, depression and the increasing discord in her marriage. But her problems can all be traced back to the loss of her son Bobby, who drowned during a family vacation in Alaska two years ago. Jenna blames herself for Bobby's death and cannot get past it. Yet her husband Robert seems to have been able to put the past to rest. One night at a party, Jenna gets in Robert's car and keeps on driving. Her trip leads her to Bellingham, WA, where she impulsively boards the ferry that will take her to Wrangell, Alaska—a small town where her Native American grandmother lived and close to the Thunder Bay Resort where Bobby died.
Once in Wrangell, things happen that lead her to believe that something is calling her to discover the truth about Bobby's death. Her grandmother's Tlingit ancestry begins to manifest itself in strange and frightening ways. As Jenna begins to explore the Tlingit legends of the kushtaka, she begins to believe that Bobby's death was no accident. Determined to find the truth, Jenna embarks on a quest to discover what really happened at Thunder Bay. The result is a terrifying but liberating journey into the heart of the Alaska wilderness and the ancient legends of the Tlingits.
Contrary to what you might think, this isn't a new book by Garth Stein, author of the best-selling Art of Racing in the Rain (which is on my TBR list for later this year). Rather, this is a rerelease of his first novel, which was published in 1998. (Note to authors: If your first book is not very successful, keep on trying. You may score later on and then get a rerelease for your earlier books!) Raven Stole the Moon has been out of print for several years, but is being rereleased on March 9. Remember how I told you I was reading a mystery book that I couldn't talk about? This was it!
Anyway, on to my thoughts about the book. I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoy stories of ancient legends coming to life in our modern world, and I thought the sections dealing with the kushtaka were disturbing and frightening at times. (Let me tell you, after reading this book, I won't look at otters quite the same way again!) On the other hand, I had some issues with the tone and writing in the book. In many ways, the book is told in a very plain, straightforward way: She did this. Then she did that. He reacted this way. Then the author mixes in some stream-of-consciousness stuff that I found a bit jarring. Here is a small example:
She got off the freeway in Bellingham feeling tired and hungry. She pulled into a gas station to get some fuel for the Machine, and she picked up some Corn Nuts and a Coke—fuel for herself. The trip suddenly had the feeling of an all-night drive. Standing under a canopy of fluorescent bulbs. Artificial sunlight. Electrified reality. Everyone would be asleep if they weren't plugged in.
My other quibble was that I thought the emotional lives of characters could have been better developed. We know Jenna is devastated by the loss of her son because the author tells us, but I never really felt it from Jenna herself. For me, this kept the book from being more than a competently told story with some supernatural elements. I think with a little more work and polishing, this book could have been something special. However, in the end, I think it falls shy of the mark.
My Final Recommendation
If you enjoy books with supernatural elements related to Native American culture, this would be a good read for you. The Tlingit legends and story line were the most compelling part of the story for me, and the descriptions of the kushtaka were interesting and a bit frightening. Although the writing is competent and the story moves along quickly, I didn't think it was unforgettable or out of the ordinary. For this reason, I'm giving it 3 stars. ...more
Basic Overview The Disappearance is about every parent's worst nightmare -- the unexplained disappearance of a child. The Sandler family is a happy, afBasic Overview The Disappearance is about every parent's worst nightmare -- the unexplained disappearance of a child. The Sandler family is a happy, affluent family spending the summer in the small Massachusetts town of Smithfield. The two parents -- Joshua and Nathalie -- dote on their 14-year-old son Daniel. Nathalie thrives as a cellist for the New York Philharmonic. Joshua has taken over the family business and made it successful -- enough so that he is able to invest in a new resort being built near Smithfield. And Daniel is a parent's dream -- smart, athletic, personable. Although Daniel and Joshua have begun to butt heads as Daniel begins to establish himself as his own man, the family is essential happy and loving. So, one ordinary afternoon, when Joshua and Nathalie run a mundane errand into town and leave Daniel behind, they have no reason to think twice about it. But when they return, Daniel is gone. With no real reason to worry, they believe he has gone out with his friends or for a walk. But as the hours pass and Daniel doesn't show up, Joshua and Nathalie begin to worry. They begin calling Dan's friends, checking with neighbors and searching their small town. But Daniel doesn't come home, and Joshua and Nathalie become increasingly concerned and frantic. They call the police, and the search for Daniel begins in earnest. Days pass and no trace of Daniel is found. Joshua -- increasingly frustrated by the police's failure to find his son -- takes matters into his own hands and begins conducting his own investigation. He is unable to sit still knowing that Daniel might be out there somewhere. And as days turn to weeks and weeks into months, Joshua becomes obsessed with finding answers. He is always in motion, always looking for new avenues to explore. By contrast, Nathalie shuts down -- barely able to take care of herself. Her beloved cello sits neglected. She drops out of life. The strain on their marriage takes a toll. And, then, the mystery of what happened to Daniel is solved -- but is it too late for Joshua and Nathalie?
My Thoughts When I first started this book, I thought I was getting a standard-issue whodunit: "A boy goes missing. What happened to him?" But I found so much more. The mystery of what happened to Daniel is really almost secondary to the primary story -- which is how Daniel's disappearance affects Joshua, Nathalie and their marriage. In fact, the mechanics of solving the mystery of what happened to Daniel were the least satisfying aspects of the book. Of course you want to know what happened, but I felt the driving force of the book is not solving this mystery. Instead, the book is a well-written character study of Joshua and Nathalie and how Daniel's disappearance affects them.
I've always read that the death or disappearance of a child usually affects each parent differently -- to the point where marriages are often destroyed rather than cemented by a common grief. Joshua's need to take action contrasts strongly with Nathalie's withdrawal from the world. Their marriage suffers, and the mystery of whether they would be able to find each other again was as compelling to me as finding out what happened to Daniel. This was a well-written character study of how grief and tragedy affect people differently and how such a traumatic event can affect even the strongest marriage.
I think it is also worth mentioning that the town of Smithfield is a bit of a character of its own. It is an effective setting for this book, and it provided Sigel with the opportunity to have Joshua do a bit of his own detective work without that seeming unrealistic. Also, I liked how the author wrote about Nathalie and her love for her music. It made me wonder if he was a bit of a musician himself.
Finally, it goes without saying that a book like this makes you think about your own reactions if something like this happened to your own child. I never want to go through what this family did, and I don't know if I would react more like Joshua or Nathalie. I hope I never find out.
Final Thoughts The Disappearance was a well-written character study of parents dealing with the disappearance of a child. Although the mystery of the disappearance is a major part of the book, the book is more of an examination into a marriage and two good parents dealing with a terrible tragedy. I found the ending to be satisfying. However, if you are looking for a riveting "whodunit" type of mystery, I don't think this book would satisfy you. ...more