I think I'm done with Ann Patchett for a while. There's really nothing all that wrong with this book (it's infinitely better than her dismal Run), but...moreI think I'm done with Ann Patchett for a while. There's really nothing all that wrong with this book (it's infinitely better than her dismal Run), but since my first experience with her was the absolutely exquisite Bel Canto, I'm afraid that nothing she writes again can ever live up to the joy of reading that book. I keep expecting to be awestruck in the way I was with Bel Canto, and perhaps that's an unrealistic expectation.
State of Wonder is a fine read, but I wouldn't classify it as great literature. The protagonist, Marina Singh is a forty-two-year-old corporate pharmaceutical doctor steal sorting through the emotional baggage of an Indian father who abandoned her mother after a brief fling in college for another wife back in the homeland. She visited her father every few years in India, always kept at a safe distance from his new family, and his early death helped infect Marina with a bevy of night terrors about the loss. Over the course of the novel, we briefly learn of her sad experiences both professionally and personally, all of which set the stage for her departure for the Brazilian rain forest in a search for a lost and presumed dead colleague, surreptitiously taking over his role as the drug company's reconnoiter for the fertility drug that is being developed deep in the jungle with the study of an indigenous people who bear children well into their old age.
If all of this sounds a bit contrived and even more far fetched, it is, but that doesn't mean that it's not engaging. Is this future mass market paperback that will surely be masquerading as a trade edition? Yes. Should you read? Sure, but with low expectations if you've experienced the joy of Bel Canto.(less)
Based on my experiences reading student essays and just listening to the general literary grapevine, I was already pretty familiar with the plot of Th...moreBased on my experiences reading student essays and just listening to the general literary grapevine, I was already pretty familiar with the plot of Things Fall Apart before I started reading the actual text. I knew the narrative to be a compelling representation of the collision between British colonialism and Nigerian nativism. Upon engaging with the text however, I was struck by the level at which Achebe succeeds in allowing both the civility and the barbarism to coexist within both societies so eloquently. Okonkwo's characterization and arc are difficult portrayals of the effects of Western greed disguised in salvation coupled with the harsh realities of a shifting native culture that cannot catch up with its destructive deliverance from primitivism. This is a book I'd like to read again in the future, especially if given the opportunity to teach it. My four-star rating is due primarily to the disconnected style in which Achebe relates the story; perhaps this is culturally stylistic or even representative of an allegorical technique, but I found it difficult to truly connect with Okonkwo in the way I expect to when reading fiction. In hindsight though, this might be due to his character's truly difficult position of being a father caught in changing times within his chosen homeland. Some of the difficult actions he takes(view spoiler)[--beating his wives, murdering his adopted child, disowning his son-- (hide spoiler)]which might be unpalatable if the reader feels too close to him.(less)
Alexie has created an incredibly likable yet realistic character in Junior, an American Indian boy struggling with his identity. The first person narr...moreAlexie has created an incredibly likable yet realistic character in Junior, an American Indian boy struggling with his identity. The first person narration is both hilarious and moving, but the voice of this adolescent young man never comes across as anything other than truly genuine. An incredibly quick read, the novel manages to touch upon the difficult trappings of family expectations, alcohol abuse, poverty, inequality in our schools, puberty, and more. A frank and humorous take on growing up different, this is a great book!(less)