I had mixed feelings. The book seemed kind of lightweight for the most part, not exactly what I would expect from Anna Quindlen. Then, when she tried...moreI had mixed feelings. The book seemed kind of lightweight for the most part, not exactly what I would expect from Anna Quindlen. Then, when she tried to get deep, I found it a little forced and contrived. The asides about New York got old; they were distracting and slowed down the plot unnecessarily. It's as if the city itself was a character, but one who didn't do much, just got a lot of description. I also felt that the liberal agenda detracted somewhat, and that some of her descriptions of blacks, while sympathetic, were stereotyped. Her theme of the sister relationship was interesting and provocative at times, but overall I thought the book was mediocre. Not a total waste of time, but nothing great either. Try it, though, Marg, and let me know if you think otherwise -- maybe you'll see something I missed.(less)
This wasn't bad -- definitely a cut above "The Red Tent," which I thought was highly overrated irrespective of one's feelings about the sacrilege. A l...moreThis wasn't bad -- definitely a cut above "The Red Tent," which I thought was highly overrated irrespective of one's feelings about the sacrilege. A little depressing in that it's about the disintegration of a town through death or departure of its last citizens, but some nice affirming moments too where people leave Dogtown to get a good new start on life. I also thought it was creative of Diamant to imagine this entire story based on a brief pamphlet about a dead town. Not a bad way to pass the time.(less)
Book #2 in my current reeducation quest...it's long and thorough, and pretty practical; however, it doesn't speak to me the way "Where to Start and Wh...moreBook #2 in my current reeducation quest...it's long and thorough, and pretty practical; however, it doesn't speak to me the way "Where to Start and What to Ask" did. I like the atheoretical orientation, but I also feel like it's more of an effort to drag myself through this one.
Update -- okay -- now I've finished it. Overall, my first impression still stands. The writing was okay but not great, which made the book a little less accessible than I would have liked. I really liked the practical exercises and examples; I found them very illustrative. I don't know whether it's possible to write counseling exercises for the budding therapist that will translate into real life (especially if you don't have a partner to practice with), but if it is, these are good candidates. I felt like the skills they were teaching and having me practice were very relevant and useful. I guess the true test will be once the internship starts...(less)
Reeducation book #3. Not as good as "Skills and Strategies...," although it is simpler to read and more accessible. There is some information here tha...moreReeducation book #3. Not as good as "Skills and Strategies...," although it is simpler to read and more accessible. There is some information here that wasn't really covered in "Skills and Strategies," or not in the same way, but mostly they overlap and "Skills and Strategies" goes into a lot more detail, most of which is actually useful. I guess I would say that "Skills and Strategies" analyzes what the therapist should do in a session on a micro level, whereas "Counseling Strategies is more macro and superficial. Additionally, the copy I'm reading is a very old edition and somewhat dated (one of the disadvantages of trying to do this in Israel). Maybe subsequent editions are better; I have no way of knowing. (less)
Margueya's scathing review of this book truly says it all. She brought it so we could have a good laugh, and it certainly filled its purpose.
This is...moreMargueya's scathing review of this book truly says it all. She brought it so we could have a good laugh, and it certainly filled its purpose.
This is basically a Targum-Feldheim romance novel (published by Bosworth Press, which I suspect is a cover for some vanity publishing company) which takes place in a university setting (Princeton, no less), written by someone who may never have actually walked into a university although he claims otherwise. I also doubt his experience with romance, because the dialogue between the protagonists was truly beyond belief.
Reading this book was a little like reading Harry Potter or some other magic realism/fantasy book, where it's like, this world bears some superficial resemblance to the one I know but a lot of the rules are different. Right from the start, you could tell it was going to be preposterous. A second-year student delivering the faculty lecture? Unprepared? He blows his audience away? At PRINCETON? Each thing by itself bore no resemblance to any university I know; together, well...
Then, of course, there was this Harlequin romance (with no touching, of course). The last time I found dialogue this difficult to read, I was reading in Hebrew. Basically a lot of lecturing, during which these two were theoretically falling madly in love. I'm all for an intellectual connection between a couple, but this was...I just keep finding myself at a loss for words. Naturally, Christine was incredibly beautiful to boot -- would you have predicted otherwise?
At this point, I've run out of things to say that weren't put better by Margueya. Instead, I'll tell you how I think the book should have been written:
Josh is struggling to juggle the pressure of studying in both Lakewood and Princeton and not fully succeeding in either place. More to the point, he is experiencing a soul struggle about the appeal of both places for him and trying to figure out where he truly belongs. Christine (who would surely have a more subtly symbolic name in my version) would be an average-looking, intelligent student to whom he is attracted but very unsure, especially given the difference in their faiths. She, meanwhile, is experiencing doubts about him as she encounters their culture gap and the fact that he feels he must hide their relationship from his family. Other issues, rather than being glossed over or completely ignored, would actually be dealt with in the book, e.g., yichud and negiah, lack of acceptance from friends and family on both sides, shadchanim make Josh crazy and he is conflicted between his shidduch life and his Princeton life, Josh gets found out and his reputation is shot but he still can't bring himself to leave Lakewood, etc., etc.
Wow -- what a fascinating experience, to read "Truth and Beauty" after "Autobiography of a Face" and then to follow up with Suellen Grealy's angry art...moreWow -- what a fascinating experience, to read "Truth and Beauty" after "Autobiography of a Face" and then to follow up with Suellen Grealy's angry article. I actually thought "Truth and Beauty" was the better book of the two, although perhaps it's not fair to say that because much of my fascination with "Truth and Beauty," at least initially, stemmed from having read "Autobiography of a Face" and the unique, stimulating opportunity to read one person's memoir and then to read how that person was remembered by a close friend. First of all, I loved the writing. I forgot I was reading a book half the time; I felt like I was experiencing the friendship and the people myself. Also, while "Autobiography of a Face" was well-written, the story gripped me more than the writing. With "Truth and Beauty," the writing was more singular than the story although I enjoyed both. "Autobiography" explored the dynamics of growing up looking like a freak, while "Truth" described a uniquely intimate? codependent? almost physical? unhealthily close, or just unusually close? friendship -- a more universal topic, but written about in such a fascinating and provocative way. This book made me think a lot about friendship. When does unique closeness become dysfunctional and unhealthy? When friends fall into the roles of "the sick one" and "the well one," even legitimately, how do they break out of that? And should they? If so, at what point? It also made me think about sociable, charismatic, life-of-the-party people and whether they're just good at masking and filling (or trying to fill) an inner emptiness. Is it better to be introverted? Then, reading Suellen Grealy's article (not printed in the book, for obvious reasons) raised even more questions for me. I could empathize with Suellen's feelings of exposure and her sense that her private grief had become something public and marketable. At the same time, at the risk of sounding callous, there's another way to look at this. For example, concerning "Autobiography," she expressed irritation that Lucy had selected her vantage point -- but what do you expect a memoir to be? In describing Ann Patchett's afterword to "Autobiography," Suellen quoted her sister Sarah as saying, "Where are we in this story?" Ann Patchett was describing her memories of Lucy, which didn't include her sisters, whom she never met while Lucy was alive. I tried to understand -- is she angry about the exposure of Lucy, or about the fact that she wasn't included in this expose? Then, Suellen reacted to the fact that one reading guide for "Autobiography" questioned her mother's parenting skills, and reported that this was blamed on an inexperienced intern. It's true that this may be insensitive to the family, but once you're going to go there, maybe the book shouldn't have been published at all! Suellen said that, while she respected Ann Patchett's need to write the book as an artist, she would have preferred that she write it and then bury it somewhere rather than publishing it. Right. I sympathize with Suellen's feelings of exposure, but to hold it against Ann that she spent years writing an excellent book, a book that contributes to the literature canon, and then actually wanted to publish it, is not fair. This happens to be a problem, as I know because a friend of mine is a writer and a journalist and sometimes angers people who appear in her writings (directly or indirectly) because they feel their privacy has been invaded. It's not that I don't sympathize with Suellen's feelings. I can't imagine what her grief must be like, and then to have it bared so publicly outside of her control. However, "Truth and Beauty" was such a worthwhile book in my opinion that I have a hard time relating to her particular complaints. I guess that any book has the potential to expose and hurt people, especially a memoir. Does that mean it shouldn't be written? Does that mean it shouldn't be read? (less)
I wavered between one and two stars on this one, but finally decided that it really wasn't much better than "With All My Heart, With All My Soul," esp...moreI wavered between one and two stars on this one, but finally decided that it really wasn't much better than "With All My Heart, With All My Soul," especially in terms of subtlety, dialogue, agenda, etc. Before I start ripping this book, I have to get this one gripe out that jumped out at me. WHERE WAS THE EDITOR?
p. 205 -- "A week later, Chaim [the rabbi] began learning with Victor Shammanov." p. 220 -- [at a dinner party given by the rabbi some time later] "He took Chaim into his arms and hugged him, kissing him vigorously on both cheeks. 'Victor Shammanov. Good to meet you, Rabbi!'"
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
1. This story was way too farfetched, and I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief. The characters, thinly drawn though they were, were chameleons who changed character traits to suit the story. One minute, Chaim is a low-IQ guy smitten with his wife; the next, he's thinking critically and analytically about both his wife and his congregation and delivering pointed sermons, not to mention putting together the nature of his wife's extracurricular activities based on very limited, vague information. Also, while it was predictable that Delilah would have trouble with the community, some of the forms that this trouble took were pretty unrealistic.
2. The satire was way over the top. I know Naomi's been out of America for a while, but the idea that a charity for providing secondhand designer handbags for Israeli victims of terror would take off is too ludicrous to be funny. Most Americans, even suburban ones, are too busy struggling to pay their tuition to have three maids or make bar mitzvahs which involve flying their friends to Africa. It's the classic Israeli image of American Jews as rich, bored, people with absolutely no sense of proportion. I'm not saying it's never true, just not nearly to the extent that Ragen depicts. While good satire involves some exaggeration, too much exaggeration just makes it into an eye-rolling farce.
3. Ragen's trademark, the little (and not-so-little) asides slamming many Orthodox practices, have GOT to go. Believe me -- it's not because this offends me as an Orthodox Jew. I read a wide range of books and have no problem with authors whose points of view don't reflect mine -- I even find that more stimulating. I'm actually speaking purely as a writer -- it disrupts the flow of the story when the author sticks her agenda in with little mini-lectures (whether framed as narrative or as dialogue) or even brief ad hominem attacks. The really good books I've read have managed to convey a lot without ever departing from the story line in this way. Agenda ruins a story -- any good writer will tell you that. Other writing problems, probably related to this, was a major problem with "Show, don't tell," especially when it came to depicting the stresses on Delilah's life as a rebbetzin.
I thought this book would be a departure from some of her earlier Haredi-bashing books. In a superficial sense it was, focusing on Modern Orthodox Jews and on a heroine who exploited the system rather than suffering from it. However, there was certainly no shortage of anti-Orthodox diatribes, especially attacking rabbinic Judaism, to the point that I started to wonder whether Naomi might be a Karaite.(less)
Basically, if you took the book of Job and fictionalized it, changed several details, and set it in Limerick, Ireland, it would bear a marked resembla...moreBasically, if you took the book of Job and fictionalized it, changed several details, and set it in Limerick, Ireland, it would bear a marked resemblance to this book. I expected it to be depressing and it was, but I found myself very engaged despite that. The writing was great, and I felt that (for once) this was a memoir that was worth writing and reading because it really gave the reader more than just someone's memories. I got a real sense of place, and life for the impoverished Irish. The experience of reading this reminded me a little of reading "The Bookseller of Kabul" -- that's the best way I can describe it. And I couldn't stop thinking, boy are my kids spoiled! Now I can add Ireland to the list of places I have no desire to visit, right after India.
Yay! Margueya is here, and has brought me my book fix. This is one of the ones she wants me to finish while she's here, so I have ha...more[see update below]
Yay! Margueya is here, and has brought me my book fix. This is one of the ones she wants me to finish while she's here, so I have happily put aside my other, heavier books and am enjoying a lighter change of pace. The book is cute so far, and seems like your typical immigrant story in many ways. Not as hysterical as the title led me to expect, but it does bring a smile to my face and it's not a bad read. Much less whiny than "Lipstick Jihad."
Ok -- I finished it. I had no trouble deciding to give this one three stars, because that about sums it up -- not bad, not great. A lighthearted look at some of the immigrant/bicultural themes depicted in a more serious way in "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri (which I recommend, by the way). One reviewer compared it to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which I thought was a very apt comparison, especially since I thought that movie was kind of cute at times but overall not that great. If you liked "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," you'll probably like this book because a lot of the humor was the same -- clueless, well-meaning, strong-willed immigrants behaving in an unwittingly silly way, totally bewildered by their new culture and convinced of the superiority of their own but enjoying the new culture all the same. As a point in this book's favor, I really appreciate memoirists who depict their family as loving and endearing in their foibles. So many of them seem to love trashing their families, and it's refreshing to read a memoir where the memoirist's love for her family comes through even as she depicts some potentially embarrassing moments.(less)
I really need something light and fluffy now, but this book is giving me ADD. I just hope it turns out to be better than "Angry Housewives Eating Bon...moreI really need something light and fluffy now, but this book is giving me ADD. I just hope it turns out to be better than "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons"...
Update: OK -- now I must rant.
Complaint #1: I have nothing against middle-aged or any other kind of chick lit. However, I feel that chick lit by definition should be both light and short. This book was neither. I found the process of reading it slow, and the book was way longer than it needed to be.
Complaint #2: This author tried to take on topics that were too big for her, and then dealt with them in a superficial way. I felt that even her choice of complex scenarios was clicheed -- sandwich generation, midlife crisis, finding the courage to finally leave an unfaithful husband, teen pregnancy, etc. All of these topics have been done to death in literature, and she did not bring any original twists to them. If you're going to write about hackneyed situations, at least make them a little unique by varying the circumstances and/or the characters. But not only were these situations and everything about them clicheed, they were dealt with very superficially.
Complaint #2a: I think that some of the problem was that there were too many characters and situations for Noble to delve deeply into any one of them. Basically, I feel she bit off more than she could chew both in terms of the situations themselves, and in trying to write about all of them in one book -- especially since this was really meant to be chick lit. I do think that chick lit can have deeper themes; e.g., "I Don't Know How She Does It" managed to pull off a light, breezy, and often funny tone while simultaneously offering a very real and complex exploration of the conflicts of a working mother. However, the genre is limited in its ability to remain light while exploring these themes and chick lit authors need to be realistic about maintaining that balance. Basically, this book was trying to be both a light, breezy chick lit book and a deep, complex exploration of psychologically significant situations. It ended up being neither of those things.
Complaint #3: Although this book was ostensibly about the book group and how their relationships/interactions gel, there was actually very little focus on the group qua group. It was more about the individual women and their particular situations, occasionally including interactions between women who were friends before they joined the book group. I didn't get any sense of women who ordinarily wouldn't have met being thrown together and interacting in this setting, and how their relationships developed.
Complaint #4: Dialogue needs to include occasional indications of who's saying what, not to mention visual details, especially if the dialogue is taking place among four or five people! During the actual book club meeting interludes, brief and sporadic though they were, you could never tell who was saying what about the book. In this way, the author missed a great opportunity for characterization and for executing the ostensible theme of the book (i.e., the connection between the literature and the characters' personal issues).
Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest, and if you're still reading, I thank you for your patience!(less)
I'm giving this five stars, even though in truth I'm really not sufficiently knowledgeable to critique the thesis of the book and should perhaps be mo...moreI'm giving this five stars, even though in truth I'm really not sufficiently knowledgeable to critique the thesis of the book and should perhaps be more conservative in my praise. I found it readable, interesting, and thought-provoking; similar genre to Freakonomics but more solid, it seemed to me. Highly recommended. (less)