Overrated and disappointing. Maybe I've just read too many WWII novels, but I don't get what everyone saw in this. I found the characters flat, the stOverrated and disappointing. Maybe I've just read too many WWII novels, but I don't get what everyone saw in this. I found the characters flat, the storyline dragged out, the prose unimpressive, and lots of deja vu to every other WWII novel I've read.
I might have liked this better had I read it at a less jaded stage of my life, but I was mostly just waiting for it to be over. I ended up doing a lot of skimming and am not sure if I can truly say I finished it. But to be honest, I don't really care....more
I'm not sure why, exactly, but this book failed to hold my interest.
Fictionalization of actual historical events and figures tends not to be my genre,I'm not sure why, exactly, but this book failed to hold my interest.
Fictionalization of actual historical events and figures tends not to be my genre, but I don't think that's what bothered me here. Typhoid Mary was an interesting figure to write about, and I know so little about her that I was okay with reading a novelization of her experience. It was certainly a sad one, as she was unfairly isolated for allegedly spreading Typhoid around. And the writing wasn't bad, and I definitely saw the author trying to evoke complex characters, relationships, and situations.
Maybe it just went on too long. It felt like there was a lot of filler, and something off-balance about the ratio of narrative to dialogue. It kind of reminded me of Blame in that way, where long narratives were interspersed with occasional short scenes, and the story kind of dragged. I also couldn't maintain my interest in Mary's poorly chosen romance, hard as the author tried to render the complex relationship.
I wonder if what I felt about this book, and perhaps about Blame, is that the pivotal event was not actually long enough to write a book about, and that the author then had to compensate by extending the main character's story with a lot of banalities. Come to think of it, the same thing happened with The Chaperone, and I think that that's in fact what bothered me about all of these books. My sense is that the author was captivated by a particularly provocative situation, milked it as long as she could, and then had only half a book that she had to somehow flesh out.
So unfortunately, not a read that I can personally recommend although others seem to have liked it better than I did....more
In this case my three-star rating is a strong three, a lots-of-strengths-but-unfortunately-some-weaknesses-too three, not a grudging, should-maybe-be-In this case my three-star rating is a strong three, a lots-of-strengths-but-unfortunately-some-weaknesses-too three, not a grudging, should-maybe-be-two-stars-but-I'm-feeling-generous three. This was an entertaining and engaging audio listen for me, and I love an unreliable narrator. Unfortunately, the prose waxed into the purple realm at times and there were several anticlimactic moments where it felt like the book had promised more than it was delivering. So just three stars, but definitely worth picking up for a beach visit or plane ride.
Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the book's narrator, has grown up spending summers on her wealthy family's island together with two cousins her age and one cousin's step-cousin from the wrong side of the tracks. The four of them form a tight-knit group called "The Liars," and the theme of the book seems to be the fluid nature of the truth. We gradually learn that Cadence suffered an accident one summer and is having difficulty regaining her memory of what seems to have been a pivotal summer for the family. Together with Cadence, the reader tries to piece together the evidence and figure out what actually happened that summer.
Unlike many smarter goodreaders, I failed to guess the plot twist and was appropriately shocked when I learned the truth of what happened that summer. My one issue was that I felt the author could have taken that situation farther in a variety of ways and made things even more morally ambiguous. Still, though, while I wouldn't label this a great work of literature that's earth-changing in any way, I would definitely recommend it for someone who's in the mood for something engaging and not taxing.
I must confess -- there's a certain guilty pleasure in reading about people to whom I can feel unequivocally morally superior.
I mean, sure, these charI must confess -- there's a certain guilty pleasure in reading about people to whom I can feel unequivocally morally superior.
I mean, sure, these characters were largely either completely unsympathetic or boring. Sometimes that's a turnoff. In this case, though, I went into car accident mode and stayed with the book, eager for the next misbehavior.
In what might be viewed in a sense as a darker cousin of The Island, the privileged van Meters are preparing for the wedding of their daughter Daphne. The family has retreated to their island summer home in the days before the wedding, Daphne surrounded by her bridesmaid friends. Also joining them is Daphne's unhappy sister Livia who has just suffered a painful breakup. Daphne's mother Biddy is trying to keep it all together in the stressful days before the wedding; Daphne's emotionally constipated father Winn, meanwhile, is struggling with his attraction to one of Daphne's friends who's shamelessly leading him on as well as with his clueless eagerness to push his way into membership of a country club that won't spit on him despite his wealth.
It may have helped that I listened to this on audio. I might not have had the patience had I been stealing increasingly precious time from other tasks to sit and read the book. But since I mainly played it while driving or engaging in monotonous tasks, I found myself appreciating the lurid soap-opera-ness of the book and just went with it.
So I can't exactly give it a ringing endorsement; in fact I feel kind of guilty myself for having enjoyed it. But it provided me with good 3-star audio entertainment, so I really can't complain. ...more
If someone were to write a novel inspired by Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, it would probably read something likIf someone were to write a novel inspired by Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, it would probably read something like this. Baby, a twelve-year-old, lives with her heroin-addicted father who is fifteen years her senior in the red light district of Montreal. She is exposed to instability and dysfunction, foster care placement and disruption, mental illness, drugs, prostitution, and occasionally, something resembling a functional family or relationship. The novel felt gritty and very realistic; I thankfully lack the experience to judge the novel's accuracy but I credit the writing with the fact that I never felt the need to suspend disbelief. (Sometimes I find myself feeling very skeptical to the point of being taken out of the story, even when I know that the novel is describing something unfamiliar to me and it might simply be my lack of knowledge. This was not one of those times.) The novel also did a good job, if perhaps overdone, of playing with the theme of childhood vs. adulthood, and what it might mean to be developmentally a child in a world which forces you to grow up too fast.
I only gave it three stars, though, because it was just too gritty and bleak for me. Although the ending was potentially redemptive, it was an intense and often depressing read. The story of a young teen forced into prostitution is just not a favorite plot of mine, especially as a mother of teenagers....more
Kiera van Gelder's voice is one that needs to be heard.
I first encountered Kiera on a very informative video about Borderline Personality Disorder whKiera van Gelder's voice is one that needs to be heard.
I first encountered Kiera on a very informative video about Borderline Personality Disorder where she discusses her personal struggles with her condition and her difficult climb to improved functioning. This memoir recounts her experiences in a lot more detail.
Many professionals I know are pessimistic when it comes to working with someone who has BPD. It can be demanding to accept responsibility for someone who might experience intense, unpredictable mood swings and impulsive self-destructive behavior. Personality disorders are notoriously difficult to treat, and the prognosis can look grim. This is one of the reasons an account like Kiera's can lend welcome perspective and remind us that, for some at least, there is a way out.
Kiera takes you inside her head and her experiences. She gives you a window into what it might be like to desperately fear abandonment in all your relationships, to the point where the fear supersedes any semblance of mature, rational behavior (this book will also give you a great deal of empathy for those in relationships with people who have BPD and are on the receiving end of a lot of difficult behavior).
Kiera eventually responds well to a therapist who provides frequent sessions plus on-call phone coaching (I actually grew concerned about his boundaries and wondered how he can sustain this level of availability) as well as to authentic DBT, as opposed to a watered-down facsimile she experiences earlier which is very unhelpful. She manages to gain increased control over her emotional and behavioral symptoms, although you have a sense that some things will always be a struggle.
I also felt Kiera achieved a good balance between acknowledging the role of her childhood experiences and avoiding mother-bashing. When she did express criticism of her parents, it was balanced by clear self-awareness and what seemed to be genuine acknowledgement of her own responsibility for things.
Why only three stars then? Well, although the narrative was compelling at times the momentum was not sustained consistently for me. I also have to say that although I think Kiera has a lot of important things to tell us, there were times when the memoir veered off into TMI-land, at least for this particular reader. Finally, I couldn't relate at all to the Buddhist parts although I'm happy they worked for Kiera. ...more
Huh. Somehow I always expect to enjoy culinary memoirs more than I do.
I mean yeah, this book was kind of interesting. Von Bremzen seamlessly flits arHuh. Somehow I always expect to enjoy culinary memoirs more than I do.
I mean yeah, this book was kind of interesting. Von Bremzen seamlessly flits around between history of the Soviet Union from 1917 on, her own family's experiences under the various regimes, and description of various Soviet foods that reflect the times. Von Bremzen includes several interesting-looking recipes at the end, although I agree with reviewers who felt these recipes would have been better placed throughout the book.
Von Bremzen is a good writer with subtly caustic tongue-in-cheek humor that occasionally sneaks up and takes you by surprise. I found many of the history and personal memoir sections interesting, and her writing about the food fit nicely as opposed to being tacked on. I felt she did a good job of using food as a lens through which to view the Soviet experience.
Unfortunately, though, I found my interest waning as the book progressed. Some of the later chapters felt disjointed and stream-of-consciousness, and I wasn't sure what she was trying to portray exactly. In truth I was also rushing to finish the book so I could give it back to the library, but I still think it could have been a more enjoyable experience than it was.
I'll give her three stars -- it's a nice idea, mostly well done. My feelings overall remain in the lukewarm range though....more
I read this book purely to expand my knowledge of the Salem witch trials, having visited the Salem Witch Museum and finished A Delusion of Satan: TheI read this book purely to expand my knowledge of the Salem witch trials, having visited the Salem Witch Museum and finished A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. In this well-researched and informative book, Carlson suggests that the young women who went into fits and accused individuals in their community of bewitching them were actually suffering from a form of encephalitis which caused their symptoms, bizarre behavior, and even their hallucinations.
My three-star rating relates entirely to my subjective experience. I didn't read this book out of any great curiosity about encephalitis or medicine, so those sections, though necessary, left me cold. I enjoyed the chapter on the history of mental illness and witchcraft, and was intrigued by the suggestion that a medical explanation might have been at the bottom of the whole episode. The author's research was impressive and expands the focus of A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by noting that the accusations were not only made by the infamous clique of fitful young women. With that said, I did question whether the author might be drawing the target around the arrow. Although a medical disease could certainly have gone undiagnosed in the seventeenth century, the explanation seemed simplistic in certain ways and failed to address many of the psychological and sociological aspects of this phenomenon. I sometimes felt like the data was being shaped to fit the author's theory.
In the author's favor, the book was short and a quick read, especially if you skip or skim the chapters that interest you less....more
I recently visited Boston for the first time (what a great city!) and took my kids to the Salem Witch Museum. Although I vaguely remembered brushing oI recently visited Boston for the first time (what a great city!) and took my kids to the Salem Witch Museum. Although I vaguely remembered brushing over this episode at some point in my education, visiting museum stimulated my fascination with this phenomenon, which inspired me to grab some relevant books on my next visit to the library. This was the first one.
The book is readable, and spins a vivid narrative about the events surrounding the witch trials. The author has clearly done a great deal of research, although she does not appear to have an advanced history degree and I have to reserve judgment about her ability to criticize academic sources as a historian might. I was also concerned about what appeared to be the injection of value judgments and assumptions about people's motivations which are truly unknowable. Although it made for a juicier read than a dry academic text would have, I wasn't sure whether the author might be blurring the lines between established facts and her own interpretation.
Certainly this is an interesting book and probably not factually wrong overall, although my sense after reading an additional book on the same topic is that some information was omitted that might have offered a different picture....more
There is a lot to admire about Waris Dirie and her story. Raised in a nomadic Somali family, apparently raped at age four and then mutilated in a femaThere is a lot to admire about Waris Dirie and her story. Raised in a nomadic Somali family, apparently raped at age four and then mutilated in a female circumcision ritual at age five, Dirie bravely ran away from home at thirteen to avoid being married off to an old man. Dirie endured a great many trials and tribulations -- finding her way to Mogadishu and to her long-lost relatives, a string of unsuccessful living arrangements, working as a maid in London and then as kitchen help in McDonalds with minimal English language or literacy. Eventually, in an amazing rags-to-riches trajectory, Dirie embarks on a successful modeling career and then uses her success to speak out against female genital mutilation (FGM).
It's a shocking story and it reads quickly despite the mediocre writing which detracted some. Unfortunately I just couldn't warm up to Dirie as a narrator. Some goodreaders perceived her as disingenuous, which is something that occurred to me as well although that may just be general memoir skepticism (thank you James Frey for stealing my innocence). I think the real problem was that I just didn't like Dirie. She's not someone I would ever want to meet or hang out with, although I do respect what she's been through and genuinely admire her triumph over adversity and her activism. Maybe it's cultural, or part of growing up in a tough world and having tough experiences, but Dirie seemed superficial, self-involved, and Machiavellian to me, using people when it suited her and discarding them when it didn't, falling out with family members without taking much responsibility for her own behavior, failing to respect people's wishes at times, etc. Plus I felt that some of her musings sadly lived up to negative stereotypes of models and modeling as superficial and vain. Dirie redeemed herself somewhat in my eyes with her commitment to activism, but I still felt I couldn't really connect with her.
I thought Infidel, a memoir which covered similar ground, was a far superior book with a much more relatable and admirable narrator. ...more
I'm so glad I overcame my aversion to graphic books and picked this up. I've read several Iranian coming-of-age memoirs but this is definitely one ofI'm so glad I overcame my aversion to graphic books and picked this up. I've read several Iranian coming-of-age memoirs but this is definitely one of the better ones, maybe even the best.
Satrapi uses expressive cartoons to show the progression of her life, from early childhood listening to her parents anxiously discuss the Shah, to the Iranian revolution, to being sent to Vienna for school at 14 without family or friends and her often ill-fated attempts to find herself in a directionless existence. As Satrapi notes, she becomes a conflicted adult who feels neither Iranian nor European. I found Satrapi quite sympathetic as a narrator and hope she has managed to work out some of the issues that plagued her in this book. In the meantime, I felt her struggle and marveled anew at my great fortune to be born in a democratic country. ...more
Reading this book was a very similar experience to reading The Orphan Master's Son on many levels. The non-linear narrative. The war-torn environmentReading this book was a very similar experience to reading The Orphan Master's Son on many levels. The non-linear narrative. The war-torn environment and graphic torture. Being thrown right into the story with little explanation, and having to sink or swim (or flounder, as I did for the first 2-300 pages). The sentences are well-crafted, the story eventually comes together, and there are some interesting moral ambiguities. But it's a book you have to work at, and between that and the painful experiences of the people, I'm not sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena takes place in war-torn Chechnya. The central characters are four men and two sisters, connected by a little girl (daughter to one of the men). We learn that the little girl's father is taken away, and that she is in danger. One of the men, a close friend of the girl's father, takes her to the hospital where she can be protected by a doctor working there (one of the two sisters).
As I read, I met individual characters and watched their interactions, wondering why they were important and what the overall story was. I would then slowly learn backstories in bits and pieces, alternating with events in the present, until toward the end I finally managed to piece together what had happened and what was happening. It's a story where people undergo horrific experiences and then turn around and hurt other people in order to avoid more torture. Can you blame them? Well, some of the other characters do and as the reader, you can ponder this. But mainly, you feel confused for a while which eventually gives way to deep depression as you learn about the harsh realities of these characters' existence.
Lots of people raved about this book, and I can see why. It's important to have your consciousness raised to the things people go through in war-torn areas (although with fiction you always have to wonder about authenticity vs. poetic license), and the moral ambiguity is fascinating. But I'm going to have to confess my inferiority as a reader. I need a more linear narrative. I need more explanation, earlier on. I need less torture. That's just how it is. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena may objectively be a four, or even five-star book, but from me it just gets three....more
Although my negative feelings toward this book were quite strong, I will grudgingly give it two stars rather than one for two reasons: I recognize thaAlthough my negative feelings toward this book were quite strong, I will grudgingly give it two stars rather than one for two reasons: I recognize that I was not the intended audience (I'm not usually a YA fan, although I was sincerely hoping that this might be an exception), and I do think this book raises consciousness to an underexposed aspect of World War II -- Stalin's cruelly imprisoning innocent Lithuanian citizens.
Now, for the bad (I can hear the trolls now; unbelievably, I'm afraid I may be posting one of the only negative reviews of this book here). I'll start with an embarrassing confession -- when I was about ten or so, I fantasized about writing a great Holocaust novel. I would lie in bed at night, composing this novel in my head. I imagined bold, brave heroes who effortlessly resisted the Nazis, talked back to them, shared their meager rations with the weak without a moment's hesitation. I imagined heart-tugging romance against the war-torn backdrop. I projected my own reality and imagined people acting in ways that I could envision, only they happened to be going through the Holocaust.
Of course, when I got older and turned from Holocaust fiction to reading Holocaust memoir and non-fiction, I realized that the Holocaust was not nearly as romantic as all that. People trying to survive under such circumstances don't act like the people on my block, and resisting the Nazis in any fashion was an act of suicidal craziness and desperation that probably didn't get repeated. I think that there are many experiences you really can't write about authentically unless you've actually been through them, and something as extreme as the Holocaust or imprisonment in Siberia by the NKVD would fall into that category in my view. Unfortunately, I felt that Between Shades of Gray read like something I would have composed as that ten-year-old.
When I think about all the things that bothered me about this book, it starts with three: dialogue, characterization, and the need to suspend serious disbelief. They often overlapped. For example, I had a hard time imagining a little girl who had been through everything one goes through before being shoved on a cattlecar headed for Siberia approaching a total stranger and saying, "Wanna see my dolly?" I find that even most kids with normative experiences don't just reach out in that way to someone they've never seen; a child who's been through unbelievable trauma would probably be fearful and withdrawn, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But no, this girl was like Rudy on the Cosby Show (I know I'm dating myself), constantly coming up with lines that were meant to show how cute and innocent she was and felt rather jarring in the Siberian environment under NKVD glares.
More on characterization: Lina, the main character, didn't have much of a personality except when it came to boldly defying the NKVD. Somehow, though these guards wouldn't hesitate to shoot prisoners over the slightest provocations, Lina could mouth off to them without any sense of feeling, um, intimidated maybe? No problem; the NKVD let her get away with it. The same with Lina's mother, brave and true, keeping everyone's spirits up, sharing her rations with all, never appearing less than heroic in any regard.
But don't worry -- there were some people who actually did let this experience get them down. A character usually labeled "The Bald Man" was a caricature of negativity. If he opened his mouth, it was to say something rotten; if something rotten was said, you knew it was said by the bald man. Except when the author tried to give him a little three-dimensionality by having him do the occasional 180 and actually do something nice. The effect of this polarized behavior only served to make his characterization even less believable. Oddly, Lina's mother confides a damning secret to the bald man who then (of course) uses it to exploit Lina. Um, why would you pick this guy of all the people around you to confide in?
Speaking of the bald man, another thing that got on my nerves that I haven't gotten to yet was certain writing tics. I found the author's choosing to refer to characters as "the bald man," "the grouchy lady," "the man who wound his watch" (did he still HAVE a watch after months or years of these ordeals?) was irritating and took me out of the story. Sure, referring to them that way before Lina got to know them made sense. You'd think after some time in prison together, though, they would become people to her rather than simply types. Then again, with this type of characterization, that's all they were to me too.
Another annoying writing tic -- those damn flashbacks. I got it. Lina's life before the Siberian prison camp was a sharp contrast to her life in the camp (really? You think?). I didn't need tons of pointless flashbacks of Lina at a party, Lina drawing comfortably in her house, Lina talking to her parents, Lina being introduced to a boy by her cousin, etc., etc., to show me that.
The author claims to have done a great deal of research and I have to believe her, but there were things that were difficult for me to swallow. Most basic -- weren't men and women separated in these camps? I think the author herself mentioned this in an interview. Having this coed prison camp (convenient for the love story I suppose) was such a transparent abuse of poetic license in my opinion. Another thing that was hard for me to take in, although I defer to those who know better -- what was up with the guard trying to force all the prisoners to sign a paper agreeing to be imprisoned for the next 25 years? Why bother with the stupid paper? Clearly these people couldn't go anywhere. And somehow they have the courage to repeatedly refuse to sign the paper, even when threatened by guards who have no problem shooting people whenever they feel like it. And there seems to be nothing the guards can do to force them. Say what? The whole thing seemed ludicrous to me, from the paper itself to the refusal to sign to the guards' helpless frustration in face of the people's rebellion (which of course, was limited to not signing the paper -- they were still prisoners doing slave labor for meager rations). It didn't fit with anything else that was happening in the camp. Maybe this kind of thing did take place in these labor camps, and maybe there was some sort of logic behind it, but the author certainly didn't help me see it.
Before you all attack me, I'm not saying this isn't a story worth telling. I just wish it had been told well. I felt about this book the way I feel when I read a cheap Holocaust novel (I'm talking to you, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Invisible Bridge, et al.). Don't trivialize this very real and serious tragedy by writing a saccharine, emotionally manipulative novel about it. If you really want to raise people's consciousness, do some research and write a crackerjack non-fiction book. Or if writing a novel is your goal, drop the whole thing and write a novel that doesn't exploit horrifying historical events, relying on their inherent drama to compensate for lazy, mediocre writing. I know I'm being tough, but that's how I feel. Go ahead, trolls -- make my day....more
Nahid, the author, was wrenched at age nine from the loving care of her adoptive childless aunt into her ambivalent family oWhat a terribly sad story.
Nahid, the author, was wrenched at age nine from the loving care of her adoptive childless aunt into her ambivalent family of origin. Unhappy at this turn of events, Nahid eventually forms a close attachment to her newfound older sister, Pari. Nahid and Pari's paths diverge, though, as Pari is forced by her parents into an unwanted arranged marriage and Nahid manages to convince her reluctant father to send her to university in the States. The course of Pari's life ends up predictably tragic, with Nahid helpless to prevent Pari's difficulties or even to offer her much support.
Unfortunately I think I've read way too many books about the sad lives of Iranian women and it would probably take a pretty impressive book to move me at this point. Sadly this was not that book. Something about the writing felt mechanical and distancing, and it was hard to engage with the story. And despite Nahid's happier life, the book felt unrelentingly bleak as all events seemed to take place in the shadow of Pari's difficulties.
I can't honestly give this book an enthusiastic recommendation, then. But if you're less jaded than I am on this topic and can handle a very depressing story, go ahead and read it -- if only to remind yourself how fortunate you are. ...more
Perhaps even more gut-wrenching than Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and other books describing North Korea and other scary places, EscPerhaps even more gut-wrenching than Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and other books describing North Korea and other scary places, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West is the unbelievable story of a young man, born in a North Korean prison camp, who miraculously escapes and then must adjust to a life he never knew on the outside. The story is hard to believe but the author manages to corroborate much of what he learns from the former prisoner and the book ends up being pretty convincing. Most horrifying, even more than the tortures and privations and executions undergone by the prisoners, is the devastating effect on human interactions -- the utter distrust, the willingness, even eagerness, to sell someone else out, the view of one's immediate family members as competitors for survival. I took off one star for the intensely depressing nature of the story, but could not take off more because it was incredibly gripping. Eye-opening and a great book for making you appreciate what you have....more
I wavered between three and four stars because this book was a slow starter, ponderous for the first half to two thirds of the story. The last sectionI wavered between three and four stars because this book was a slow starter, ponderous for the first half to two thirds of the story. The last section made up for that, though, so it's going to be four stars in the final analysis.
Grant, the main character, is an African-American schoolteacher in Jim Crow 1940s Louisiana. Grant lives with his aunt and feels frustrated and stifled in his job, in no small part because of the uphill battle he must fight just for chalk. The one bright spot in his life is Vivian, the almost-divorced love of his life. Grant is angry and resentful when his aunt insists that he begin visiting Jefferson, her friend's godson, languishing in prison and unfairly sentenced to death. Jefferson's godmother wants Grant to teach Jefferson how to die like a man, in contrast to Jefferson's lawyer's defense of Jefferson as being a dumb and therefore blameless animal.
Part of the book's slowness may be attributed to the very realistic and authentic depiction of Jefferson's reluctance to bond with Grant combined with Grant's ambivalence and confusion about how to go about this task. The breakthrough, when it comes, manages to be both profound and believable as do Grant and Jefferson's interactions for the remainder of the book. Kudos to Ernest Gaines for creating dialogue that was moving and touching without feeling at all contrived. I guess it's typical of me to bring this back to psychology, but Grant and Jefferson's relationship was highly reminiscent of the interaction between a therapist and a reluctant client which made it particularly interesting to me.
This book also affirmed my cynical attitude toward The Help. Oh, please. Not that I can say this with any authority, but for what it's worth this book felt like a far more authentic depiction of the African American experience than the vanilla-flavored The Help. It wasn't as easy to read or as entertaining, but there's no comparison if we're going for quality and verisimilitude.
While not a perfect book, City of Women tells an interesting story with a great deal of moral ambiguity.
Sigrid, like many women in war-torn 1943 BerlWhile not a perfect book, City of Women tells an interesting story with a great deal of moral ambiguity.
Sigrid, like many women in war-torn 1943 Berlin, has a husband on the front. Sharing an apartment with her difficult mother-in-law, hardworking, stoic Sigrid is gradually drawn into a love affair with a Jew and illegal activities involving saving other Jews. The book reminded me of Those Who Save Us but raised moral questions that were more interesting in my opinion.
Now for the flaws -- certain characters and interactions strained my suspension of disbelief just a bit too much. As another reviewer noted, what's up with all the love affairs when people can barely eat? I also felt that, though the author succeeded in making certain characters and their situations complex, others were a bit simplistic for my taste.
Still -- highly readable, interesting story, interesting situations and moral questions. Worth the read....more
I really want to gush and rave about how much I loved reading this book. This is one of my favorite types of books -- highly gripping non-fiction, a bI really want to gush and rave about how much I loved reading this book. This is one of my favorite types of books -- highly gripping non-fiction, a book with the double delight of being both difficult to put down and educational, so I didn't feel guilty reading just a few more pages when there were, as always, a million other things to do.
It feels so heartless, though. How can I juxtapose my self-indulgent joy at finding a great book with the heartrending plight of the North Koreans as described therein? It embarrasses me as a statement of my privilege that I can use the internet (unavailable to North Koreans) to share my excitement at discovering a good book (I can actually indulge my intellectual curiosity, as opposed to having to stifle it) which I actually had the time to read (because I'm not out hunting for food).
Well, since I've started I may as well describe the book. Barbara Demick engagingly describes the lives of several individual North Koreans -- their day-to-day hardships and often dramatic adventures. Demick acknowledges the arguable selection bias of her focus on North Koreans who've defected to South Korea, but there's sufficient overlap in their stories that the unbelievable situation they describe becomes believable. I found myself rooting for these individuals, caught up in a bittersweet romance, cheering on a defector who proudly shows off her plastic surgery in South Korea, holding my breath as another defector crosses the border, and more. The courage and perseverance displayed by these people is amazing, though Demick acknowledges that they are not easy personalities. Maybe being easy to get along with is a privilege too.
I suspect this may be a book my sister would like more than I did, although that's never a safe bet. This novel describes a circle of suburban neighboI suspect this may be a book my sister would like more than I did, although that's never a safe bet. This novel describes a circle of suburban neighbors -- Joe and Allison, a happy-seeming couple; Sam and Gloria, two lesbians adjusting now that their husbands have commandeered custody of their children; Dick and Dorothy, a stodgy couple with a self-righteous insistence on propriety; Jessalyn, who works as some kind of private call girl; the mysterious Sun family who talks to no one; and maybe one or two other people but I don't remember who. The catalyst for chaos on the block is the unexpected appearance of Joe's 17-year-old illegitimate daughter, 9 months pregnant. Joe and Allison's marriage is thrown into a tailspin; Sam annoys Gloria with her efforts to help Diana and Joe; Dick and Dorothy are horrified when Diana starts a relationship with their son Kevin, etc., etc. Little by little, we get to know the various characters in this story and their reactions to the chain of events set into motion by Diana's arrival.
This book was decently written but pretty bleak. The characters were certainly three-dimensional, which is nice, but no one was particularly likeable, not even well-intentioned Sam. I think it went on just a little too long, and I'm a little tired of books that paint suburban individuals as shallow, meaningless twits who live for gossip and not much else. It's decent, and I did give it three stars. I just didn't love it in spite of its good points....more
How do you rate a book that leaves you befuddled for the first 300 pages and then enraptured for the last 150?
This book was a strange experience. I stHow do you rate a book that leaves you befuddled for the first 300 pages and then enraptured for the last 150?
This book was a strange experience. I started out listening to it on audio and found myself completely unable to follow it. The character's in an orphan home. The character's a kidnapper. Wait a minute -- the character's on a ship -- how did he get there? And the rowers -- where do they come into this? Suddenly there are shoes, and Americans boarding the ship, and some kind of problem...
Luckily I also had a library hard copy on my nighttable and decided to switch formats, after which I was marginally less confused. But still confused. The transitions from event to event which might explain how we got to point B from point A were choppy and easy to miss, and it was hard for me to enjoy the scenes or empathize with the characters when I couldn't follow the overarching narrative.
Then it got even more confusing in the second part of the book, where I didn't even know who the characters were any more, much less what they were doing there. The story, which had followed a chronological sequence until then, was now told in a shifting order, making it even harder to follow. Three narratives, three perspectives, three periods of time, all related, constantly switching back and forth. A book I might have put down at any point, and I'm not sure why I didn't.
But suddenly -- I got it! I understood what I was reading about! I understood what was happening! I actually cared about the characters! I felt their pain! I held my breath to see how their story would play out! My hardened heart was actually touched by the beauty of their romance! (And this is me talking.) Too bad it took me 300 pages to get to that point.
Lots of people loved this, and now I know why. But it took a lot of effort and patience for me to get there, which is why I can only give it three stars. I think it would have worked better for me had the first half of the book been streamlined, with clearer transitions. And although I did really appreciate the triple narrative in the second half once I finally understood things, I wonder if it needed to be as confusing as it was.
Definitely one for my lord-help-me-I'm-not-that-bright shelf, but not quite as impenetrable as some of the others on that shelf. You just need to keep reading....more
If you're someone who avoids Indian fiction because you find it too depressing, stay away from this book. An impressive work of narrative non-fiction,If you're someone who avoids Indian fiction because you find it too depressing, stay away from this book. An impressive work of narrative non-fiction, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity is easily the saddest book set in India that I have ever read -- and I've read many -- because apparently, it's true. The poverty and despair, the murder and suicide, the amorality and corruption -- it's all here and it all really happened.
I had a strong sense of deja vu as I read this because this book reminded me intensely of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx. It's a very similar read. Katherine Boo, a journalist who, amazingly, did not speak the language and was forced to rely on interpreters, used indefatigable interviewing and copious research to construct a narrative surrounding a pivotal event and following several characters in a Mumbai slum. As with Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, there's a strong temptation to be judgmental and to forget how a context of poverty and desperation can affect one's character. I appreciated that Katherine Boo did not idealize her characters or paint them falsely to be saints rising above their circumstances, which made it all the more moving in the rare occasions when they did. And as Katherine put it so well, "If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which is sits is uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?"
This might even be a five star book except for two issues I had. One was that, as I mentioned, it was intensely depressing. The other was that it felt unfocused at times, following several different characters and subplots, giving the reader a broader and more complete picture of a variety of experiences but sometimes sacrificing the coherence of the narrative. This was particularly challenging for me because I listened to it as an audiobook, which meant that I often ended up tuning in and out and unsure of who we were hearing about now.
A goodreads friend recently asked me about my antipathy toward The Glass Castle, and I couldn't for the life of me remember why I gave it only one staA goodreads friend recently asked me about my antipathy toward The Glass Castle, and I couldn't for the life of me remember why I gave it only one star. I think there were some contextual factors at play in my own life at the time. I remember thinking it was hard to believe, and that I wished Jeannette Walls had shared more about how she transitioned from a horrific situation into her current apparently normal one, issues I had with this book as well. I can't really figure out why some rags-to-riches, triumph-of-the-human-spirit memoirs (Angela's Ashes) work for me, and others (The Glass Castle) don't. I can only say that this one fell in between.
I was pretty horrified by Liz's drug-addicted parents and their neglect of her. I'm not sure how much of my disbelief stemmed from my difficulty absorbing Liz's childhood circumstances and how much of it was actual disbelief, especially that Liz could remember conversations and events from earliest childhood in such great detail. It's a question I have about many such memoirists.
Similar to other reviewers, I would have liked to hear more about her complicated relationship with her older sister as opposed to yet more details about her life before she managed to turn things around. Bitter fights, estrangement, and suddenly they're sharing an apartment -- all believable, but I would have liked to understand it better. The relationship between siblings growing up in such horrific circumstances can be interesting and unpredictable. I also felt that I didn't fully understand her relationship with Carlos, a Jekyll/Hyde boyfriend.
And yet, the book held my interest and I appreciate Liz's sharing more of the process of turning her life around than Jeannette Walls did, though I still felt that the emphasis on the horrors of her earlier life was more heavily weighted. There were some very inspiring moments and I never felt like it was a chore to read the book, my criticisms notwithstanding.
Overall, if you liked The Glass Castle you'll probably like this. And even if, like me, you didn't, there's still a possibility you'll enjoy this one more....more
Disclaimer: I'm rating the book, not Amy Chua's parenting.
Which is not to say that I completely disagree with Amy's parenting philosophy and goals, atDisclaimer: I'm rating the book, not Amy Chua's parenting.
Which is not to say that I completely disagree with Amy's parenting philosophy and goals, at least in principle if not in practice. I actually share Amy's view that we in the west are quick to reward mediocrity at the expense of pushing our kids to strive for their best, that we are terrified of damaging our kids' overhyped self-esteem and end up sacrificing opportunities to instill in our kids the genuine confidence that comes from achievement, the real self-esteem that comes from someone's believing you can do better as opposed to their assuming you're too fragile to hear honest feedback (and thus failing miserably to prepare the child for that inevitable experience in the real world). I believe in pushing out kids to work for what they get and to develop self-discipline and well-founded self-respect rather than empty unconditional ego.
Where Amy and I differ, then, is in the execution. Certainly there are a lot of benefits to encouraging a child to play an instrument. But unlike Amy, I feel that the intensity of that encouragement should correspond to the child's actual love for the instrument. Sure, if you have a child who wants to practice five hours a day -- or even one who wants to practice four and is willing to be pushed to five -- Carnegie Hall is a great goal. But if your child is balking and resisting, if your relationship with the child is suffering, if the child wants to play tennis for goodness sake, so it's not as if it's laziness or aimlessness that's the issue here -- let her. It's great for a child to apply themselves to something, but that something should have some intrinsic appeal to the child, not just to the parent.
Therein lies the rub. My problem wasn't with Amy Chua's pushing her children. I didn't agree with her methods (and I think that Amy's rejecting her child's handmade birthday card to her as mediocre was just unforgivable), but I could see some merits notwithstanding. My problem, rather, was the enmeshment I perceived from Amy. She didn't seem to know where she ended and her children began. Amy addressed this briefly, noting that she gets asked whether her intense micromanaging is about her children or about herself. Amy scornfully dismissed this as a typical "Western" question and observed that in her culture, the child is an extension of oneself. Well, I don't want to be culturist or anything but I guess I'm just too Western to swallow that. Maybe it worked in Maoist China, but here in the West it's not realistic. Presumably there's a reason Amy Chua's parents emigrated. If you want the benefits of living in a Westernized place, you have to accept the emphasis on individuality that goes with it. Amy shows us, often convincingly, that we pay a price for that cultural value. I actually agree, wholeheartedly. I'm just not sure that Amy's way is superior, even though she seems to think it is.
Speaking of enmeshment, reading this book provoked me to question the meaning of taking pride in your child's accomplishments if your child is, in fact, a separate person. The answer I came up with is that you can take pride in having worked to create the conditions that facilitated your child's achievement, but not in the achievement itself. The achievement itself belongs to the child. Amy might even agree with that statement, although her idea of creating conditions for achievement is about 180 degrees away from mine.
Strong reactions to this book abound, both on goodreads and elsewhere. Why? I mean, I did give it fours stars because I found it entertaining and provocative; it was a quick and easy read but not a dumb waste of time (although I thought some of the detail on the dogs and on Amy's sister was unnecessary and distracting). But that's not what the hype is about, clearly. I think the buzz about this book comes from people's defensiveness about their mothering, and the criticism on Amy's part of Westerners' more laid-back parenting style. Despite Amy's difficulties with her second child, she makes no bones about her rejection of Western parenting in favor of what she calls "the Chinese way." Also, I believe this book speaks to people's fear that China is surpassing us and will ultimately overtake us economically and otherwise.
In terms of the latter, I reserve judgment. The "Chinese way" as Amy defines it (which may be idiosyncratic for all we know) may create great students, great musicians, great citizens, obedient people. But it doesn't allow for initiative or creativity, for thinking outside the box, qualities which are arguably equally important for successful leadership. There's no question that we have a great deal to learn from our Chinese counterparts. But maybe there are a few things they could learn from us....more
Here's one extreme: William Kamkwamba, a young boy suffering famine in Malawi and forced to drop out of school because of poverty, reads a bunch of phHere's one extreme: William Kamkwamba, a young boy suffering famine in Malawi and forced to drop out of school because of poverty, reads a bunch of physics books and creates a windmill from scrap metal. Initially mocked by his community for his strange project, his success earns him renown and enough money to help his family and friends. He returns to school and begins working to help his country and continent.
Here's the other extreme: this book.
In between these two extremes, you have a touching and inspiring story which would have made a great "New Yorker" article. I was so moved by William's struggle -- the hunger he suffered, his desperate desire to attend school, his eagerness to absorb the principles of physics from library books, his indomitable spirit as a young teen resisting the mockery around him and doggedly sticking to his unprecedented project, the moment he tried out his windmill and the connected light bulb actually lit up, the tears from the audience as he struggled to describe his work in English and finally ended up with the words, "I try, and I make it!", his excitement as he met new people who introduced him to laptops, the internet, etc., his decision to use his funds to help his friends return to school and install running water for his family, etc., etc.
Unfortunately, this great story was not well served by the book, which was difficult to get into and overly detailed and meandering at times. I certainly appreciated William's story and the window into what it might be like to grow up in a Malawi village, but a tighter and more cohesive narrative would have enhanced this experience a great deal. The physics details, though relevant I suppose, were a bit excessive for someone who was simply interested in the human interest aspect of the story. I might attribute this to my not being a science person and/or to my listening on audio, but Rebecca Skloot (also an audio experience) managed to keep the necessary scientific details of her book interesting and not burdensome, so clearly it can be done.
Overall, I'm not sorry I read this book and every time I think about the story I feel moved. But the credit for that belongs to William, not to the book....more
Meh. It was an interesting premise -- sure, I'm pretty curious about what it might be like to live in a polygamous family and how those dynamics mightMeh. It was an interesting premise -- sure, I'm pretty curious about what it might be like to live in a polygamous family and how those dynamics might play out. But without any complex characters driving the story (what story? was there a story here?), my initial eagerness ebbed and I eventually returned the book to the library unfinished.
Golden Richards, the lonely polygamist of the story, is a pretty boring and wimpy guy married to four wives, a father of 28 children, who develops an interest in another woman. It's risky to try to write a novel about a boring, wimpy character. Richard Russo succeeded in Empire Falls, which is part of what made that book remarkable. Brady Udall, sadly, does not. Golden Richards is, as one reviewer put it, a "shambling doofus" who doesn't particularly endear himself to the reader.
Nor are his wives any more interesting. The first wife, Beverly, is clearly a tough cookie but we don't learn much else about her. The two next wives are sisters, which could make for some interesting conflict but apparently doesn't. Trish, the youngest wife, is something of a tragic figure but despite this doesn't manage to be any more interesting than the other wives are. Conflict and catfighting between the wives? Surprisingly, no. They have a system worked out for which one Golden spends the night with when, and Golden simply trudges along with it. Beverly doesn't appear to be liked much, but as with so much else about the book, that goes nowhere.
The one character with some potential is an eleven-year-old boy named Rusty, one of Golden's children, a precocious misfit. But even he wasn't sufficiently engaging to keep my interest, especially in the absence of a plot. The book alternated between Golden, Trish, Rusty, and some omniscient narrator (the house?) and read like a bunch of loosely connected slice-of-life vignettes. In other words, as I often find myself griping, this was a situation -- not a story. The polygamy set-up, while intriguing in theory, can only carry a book so far in the absence of developed characters or a plot....more
Well, Azadeh Moaveni has certainly matured since the whiny days of "Lipstick Jihad," although she still displays the same angst about wanting to belonWell, Azadeh Moaveni has certainly matured since the whiny days of "Lipstick Jihad," although she still displays the same angst about wanting to belong in Iran while feeling unable to reconcile with the lack of freedom there. Like "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ," "Honeymoon in Tehran" braids three themes together -- Iranian history and current events, Iranian day-to-day experience and culture, and Azadeh's personal lens as both a journalist and a resident of Tehran. Unlike "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ," "Honeymoon in Tehran" is written in clear sentences and well-organized, is not didactic in tone, follows a narrative arc, and seamlessly darts between these three aspects so that you see where Azadeh is going and what she's trying to say. Although I'm sure it's impossible to ever fully grasp another place and culture, I came away from "Honeymoon in Tehran" feeling like I had lived in Tehran along with Azadeh and seen both its drawbacks and its appeal. While Azadeh's life in Tehran was understandably increasingly stressful as Ahmadinejad's government cracked down religiously and became more hostile to foreign journalists, the reader also saw how living surrounded by a warm and supportive extended family, especially with a new baby, was a difficult thing to walk away from.
Although this book sometimes felt too long and detailed, overall I enjoyed this look at Iranian culture and at Azadeh's attempt to find her place within it....more
I'm going to give this four stars for the first 75%, even though it fell apart for me toward the end.
"Still Life with Rice" reminded me very much of WI'm going to give this four stars for the first 75%, even though it fell apart for me toward the end.
"Still Life with Rice" reminded me very much of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China -- a young woman's chronicle of her grandmother's life in war-torn Southeast Asia told from her Korean grandmother's perspective. It's pretty amazing to contemplate all the things Helie Lee's grandmother went through and her courage throughout -- married off in an arranged marriage (which, fortunately, developed into a loving union unlike depictions of arranged marriage in other books), fleeing to China with her husband where she started multiple successful businesses including opium trading, returning to Korea where she suffered the ravages of war and walked from North Korea to South Korea with her children, etc. The book read more like a novel than like the true story of someone's life, which was mostly a good thing.
Things started to go south for me toward the end. The narrative became choppy, and the events and choices increasingly unbelievable. It was hard for me to understand some of the decisions Helie's grandmother made, and extremely difficult for me to believe the way things worked out. Though billed as a true story, the book started to feel like an amateurish novel where the character's motivations are unclear and the loose ends neatly tied. If Helie Lee is in fact recounting events accurately, it's a pretty amazing story but my ability to empathize with the main character diminished in the final quarter of the book.
I would still recommend the book overall. It was a fascinating story about an unforgettable woman, and an enjoyable introduction for me to Korean history and culture. ...more
Definitely one of the better books on Iran from an insider's perspective.
Shirin Ebadi grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran, where she studied law and becDefinitely one of the better books on Iran from an insider's perspective.
Shirin Ebadi grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran, where she studied law and became a judge at the age of 23. After the revolution, Ebadi was forced to resign her position because she was a woman and was relegated to the position of frustrated clerk. Eventually she was able to work as a lawyer and became an activist on behalf of Iranian women, children, and political dissidents. In her memoir, Ebadi chronicles not only the events of her adult life but the ebb and flow of political unrest in Iran itself over the post-revolution decades.
Ebadi's brave struggle was admirable, reminiscent of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Infidel. I was a bit confused, though, at her ability to engage in such subversive activities and emerge relatively unscathed. She writes about successfully getting the Iranian media to arouse sympathy for her defendants -- what about censorship? And although she was officially on a death list, she was never actually killed and was only imprisoned once, for a relatively short term. Marina Nemat of Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir suffered a great deal more for far lesser crimes. I know life in Iran can defy logic but I still felt confused, even more so when Ebadi made oblique references to knowing the government would never harm her (although she did fear for her daughters). Why would the government never harm her? What protection did she have?
With that said, Ebadi's memoir is readable and engaging and her story fascinates. Ebadi's position on the West is also interesting -- although one would expect her to embrace American ideals, Ebadi actually airs her frank disapproval of American involvement in Iran, feeling that Iran needs to get to a better place without America's intrusion. Ebadi never apologizes for Iran but her love for and loyalty to her country come through loud and clear, to the point where she expresses resentment of friends who fled after the revolution. To me, this is why her perspective is so important and relevant -- Ebadi criticizes Iran not as an embittered and disillusioned individual who idealizes the West, but as a proud Iranian who wants to see Iran regain its own unique stance....more
It’s hard to be critical of a book with such an important topic and message. “Half the Sky” increases its readers’ awareness of the horrific things enIt’s hard to be critical of a book with such an important topic and message. “Half the Sky” increases its readers’ awareness of the horrific things endured by women in some parts of the world – rape, forced prostitution at an early age, honor killings, infanticide for being the wrong gender, genital cutting, etc. The book does this through a series of gut-wrenching anecdotes which succeed in putting a human face on the statistics. Despite the intensely depressing quality of these stories (and they are depressing), there is a thread of empowerment running throughout the book as you read about the individuals who try to fight this phenomenon and sometimes actually succeed.
Along the lines of “Three Cups of Tea,” “Half the Sky” hammers home the need to provide educational and vocational opportunities for girls and women as a way of empowering them. It’s a message that resonates with me. As with “Three Cups of Tea,” though, I appreciated the book’s inspiring theme far more than the book itself.
Aside from feeling really wrung out as a result of continuous bombardment with graphic horror stories (which unfortunately, started to all blur together after a while), I was bothered that the book made no pretense of objective reporting. The authors did not hesitate to describe humanitarian individuals they encountered as “saints,” to project what they thought people were thinking and feeling as opposed to quoting them or providing evidence of their leanings, or to use words like “should” or “must” frequently. I was particularly irked by the use of the word “apparently” where “presumably” would have been far more accurate. To me, “apparently” indicates that “the evidence suggests;” however, “apparently” was thrown around frequently in places where it was pretty obvious that the authors were “presuming” (or more likely, projecting) rather than scrutinizing the evidence, which was nonexistent. Certainly I agree with most if not all of what the authors were saying; really, it’s hard to imagine disagreeing that these women’s human rights are being violated and that something must be done. Yet the tone of the book was off-putting to me. The overload of graphic descriptions followed by polemic felt manipulative somehow.
The book’s cause is unquestionably a worthy one, which makes me feel terribly guilty feeling and voicing this criticism. I feel like I should really be saying, hey, do whatever works to get attention and assistance for these women. And had the authors gone to the other extreme and reported in a detached manner, I might have found that offensive, or simply ineffective, in a different way. Still, I can’t help but think the book might have actually been more powerful had the author’s agenda been less overt.
On a more positive note, this book made me want to go on a rooftop and sing “God Bless America” at the top of my lungs. I’m so grateful to be a product of 20th century western civilization. I’m so grateful to be dealing with my petty little hassles and not living the tragic lives described in this book. Even if I got nothing else out of this book (which, in fairness, is actually not the case; the book was both informative and interesting throughout notwithstanding my issues with its tone), that realization alone deserves at least 3 stars. ...more
This started out as a solid 3-star book but slid down to 2 during the second half. Basically, I agree with the goodreads reviewer who said this wouldThis started out as a solid 3-star book but slid down to 2 during the second half. Basically, I agree with the goodreads reviewer who said this would have worked better as a New Yorker article than it did as a full-length book.
This non-fiction book recounts the story of Deo, a young man who grew up as a Tutsi in Burundi and began attending medical school only to have his life torn apart by the war and genocide ripping his country. Against staggering odds, Deo managed to survive and fly to America on a temporary visa where he hoped to begin a new life. In America, Deo is confused, overwhelmed, and homeless. He gets a job delivering groceries, $15/day for a 12-hour shift, no lunch hour. His health begins to suffer and he is malnourished. Just as Deo's life appears to be dead-ending, he meets a former nun who introduces him to some wealthy friends. These wealthy friends put Deo through college and graduate school in public health, and Deo ultimately returns to visit Burundi and open a successful medical clinic there.
Deo's inspiring story was diminished, unfortunately, by a lengthy, drawn-out, and ultimately repetitive telling. After telling us Deo's story in much depth, Tracy Kidder treats us to a rendering of his meeting Deo and learning about his life from him and from the people who knew him. This section, comprising more than half the book, added little that was new or interesting.
The book's other serious limitation was its characterization of Deo. I never felt like I really knew Deo. At one point, preparing to travel to Burundi with Deo, Tracy Kidder notes that he hoped visiting Africa would help him understand Deo more fully. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case; Deo never seemed three-dimensional to me and I felt as if I were simply following his movements as opposed to getting inside his head.
Perhaps it's impossible to relate to someone who has suffered the things that Deo has experienced. And had the book been shorter, perhaps the lack of characterization wouldn't have bothered me. As it was, though, while I appreciated Deo's story and all he has accomplished in spite of his suffering, the book was an unfortunate vehicle for telling this story....more