[Contains spoilers] The general consensus of my book club was that this book had amazing unrealized potential. We all liked most of the characters, but...more[Contains spoilers] The general consensus of my book club was that this book had amazing unrealized potential. We all liked most of the characters, but several could have been developed far beyond their light handling in the novel, which would have allowed us to view their development in greater depth and detail. Jette, for example. She was the initial force behind the move to America and yet her character fades into the background rather quickly, eclipsed by Frederick's obsession with the Nick Nack. We learn near the end of the book that she had strong political views, but we missed out on all of the luscious development of this aspect of her character.
The strange Flitch's, Margaret and the midget attorney, Rankin, could have been a fascinating sub-story, but their unusual pairing was completely unexplained.
Lomax--his appearance was unexplained yet could have yielded a wonderful story, his relationship with Jette wasn't elaborated, his side-business came out of nowhere, his horrible death seemed a mere speedbump to the family's lives, considering how interwoven he was in their lives. Poof, he was gone and little more was offered.
Personally, I didn't like that the narrator, James, provided so many details that he never could have known. But perhaps that's just literary license. I did like James, however, and I thought it interesting how he ended up...solitary, pretty much detached from the family.
Also, I didn't think that the supposed premise of the book, i.e., the idea of a good American, was developed very well. It was mentioned early in the book, but never referred to again (unless I overlooked it). I think this is another missed opportunity with the book.
Well, I've rather picked it apart, haven't I. And yet, I am glad that I read it and enjoyed the characters. But I will say that I believe that the author should rewrite the book, perhaps after he has grown a bit as a writer, and triple its length, fleshing out all of the wonderful people that he has created to make them richly dimensional.
I've become a big fan of Asa Larsson. I see no need to compare her to the likes of Karin Fossum, whom I also love to read. She can stand on her own me...moreI've become a big fan of Asa Larsson. I see no need to compare her to the likes of Karin Fossum, whom I also love to read. She can stand on her own merits.
Personally, I think that Black Path is excellent. I like all of the storylines and am not troubled by the fact that our heroine, Rebeka, isn't always the main focus of the book. I enjoy Anna-Maria Mella and her partner, Sven-Erik, tremendously, and I think that the back and forth of the different plots was skillfully handled and very effective.
Ester is an unusual character and I was a bit thrown by all of the spiritual references, etc. I'm a pretty literal gal and yet I thought that the author did a fine job of making it all come together at the end.
Mauri was bone-chilling. His business-like arrangement of the murder. Fascinating to observe him justify his actions, view his world, analyse his options.
And poor Diddi. A pitiful, weak excuse for a human being, let alone a husband, father, brother. he was no loss, but whew! what a mess he brought to pass at the end. The sad inevitability of it all combined with the uncertainties of Anna-Maria and Sven-Erik's involvement added intensity to the ending of the story. And Ebba and Mauri's escape was brilliant: will they surface again? Or is Ester's vision to come true...(less)
I haven't been able to find Sun Storm, so I had to start with this, the second in the series. I liked it very much. I agree with Lisa that the author...moreI haven't been able to find Sun Storm, so I had to start with this, the second in the series. I liked it very much. I agree with Lisa that the author has painted Rebecka Martinsson as rather pitiful, but after what she has been through, I feel that it,s probably pretty realistic. The wolf story didn't aggravate me as much as it did some of you, but I tend to be pretty literal, so if it was laden with lots of symbolism, it was lost on me. I did like the fact that the wolf made her own way, got her needs met (even if she did have to mate beneath her normal standards...so to speak). I also thought that since she was headed for the area of Kiruna, we might meet her in later books.
When I read novels set in foreign countries I always get out a map. Kiruna is waaaaay up in the Far North, as they say in Sweden. I enjoyed the insights into the native cultures up there, how they relate somewhat to the 'southerners' , reindeer culture, etc.
Something to keep in mind is that in this book, the main character is more Anna-Maria than Rebecka, which is great by me. Anna-Maria seems to be a very normal type person, contrasted with Rebecka,s antisocial, nerdy traits. The two offset one another and the author does a good job of bringing their 'partnership' to life gradually. A development of trust and mutual interest. (this is more in the next novel, which I am reading now.) I also very much like her partner, Sven-Erik. Of course I love cats like he does, so I warmed up to him right away.
Personally I didn't mind having Rebecka easing back into civilization and civility. I thought it made sense, was a logical step Base d on Rebeckas experiences. I liked the cafe, Mimmi, and Mike...Nalle's coming into Rebecka,s life.
Something I liked a lot in this book was the presentation of the character, 'Mildred, and the people she affected. IMO like so many dogooders, Mildred DoES do a lot of good, but also takes a lot for granted and causes a lot of pain, too. I thought the book did a good job of making her and the people around her very complex. It wasn't easy to tell who was the "good" person and who was the "bad" person at any one point in time. I would have had a hard time getting a lot with Mildred, no doubt in my mind, yet I had to admire much of what she challenged.
Lars-Gunnar and his son, Nalle, were an interesting pair. I could truly feel Lars anger and frustration with Mildred,s interference. That dogoodism, that moral high road, that give some people such power. The ending came together well. The Lisa character didn't affect me so much. I just wasn't able to feel her pain. not sure why. Was that relationship not as well developed I the story? (less)
I love Karin Fossum's books. (Full disclosure: my heritage is half Norweigian and I'm intrigued by the Skandinavian perspective.) They take the genre...more
I love Karin Fossum's books. (Full disclosure: my heritage is half Norweigian and I'm intrigued by the Skandinavian perspective.) They take the genre of murder mystery to a brilliant new level by focusing on the effects of the murder on all of the different people involved instead of on figuring out whodunnit. So refreshing! With every new book Fossum explores a different dynamic, a different type of relationship and issue in society . In Water's Edge, the relationship we follow is that of the couple who finds a young boy who was sexually abused and then murdered; the issue is abuse of all kinds. I found it fascinating to see how Fossum gradually revealed more and more about the characters...the couple, Sejer, Skarre, the people in the community...and how the murder and the elements of paedophilia and other types of abuse tapped into their personal values and experiences.
I like to read some books just for escapism, but Fossum,s books feed my need for reflection and emotional inquiry into the human condition...as another reviewer said, "warts and all." and it amazes me how much Fossum accomplishes in such relatively short volumes. Her writing is rich yet economical...not a single unnecessary word. She captures a snapshot of an aspect of society that is at once harsh yet hopeful. No small feat. But I hate for her books to end: I'm addicted!(less)
This was a selection of my book club and I was intrigued because the author won the Nobel Prize in Literature: in "1991 was awarded to Nadine Gordimer...moreThis was a selection of my book club and I was intrigued because the author won the Nobel Prize in Literature: in "1991 was awarded to Nadine Gordimer "who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity".
Having said that, her book, the Pickup," was a different kind of read for me. I'll mention that the only copy available through the library was large print, and oddly enough, I found that the large font on rather small pages made Gordimer's unique, choppy sentence structure even more difficult to follow. Suffice it to say that due to rereading many sentences masquerading as paragraphs in a quest for subject, verb, and referents to the many pronouns, I probably read the book twice.
***Spoilers to follow***
The Pickup is rich with atmosphere, three-dimensional characters,universal plotlines in an unusual geographical setting.
Julie is a nieve,upper middle-class (I think not upper class...but not completely sure) white woman/girl in post-Apartheid South Africa. in her late twenties, she is college educated and works in public relations, but she is adrift, not motivated (which I think is common among comfortable youngish people). She spends her free time in the L.A. Cafe coffee house in the bohemian neighborhood where she and her friends live. Throughout the book this group is collectively referred to as The Table.
Julie has a strained relationship with her elitist father and has made The Table her surrogate Family. She meets Abdu, an attractive Black man working illegally as a car repairman.
The story evolves as the two consciously and unconsciously use one another to achieve their own ends. There is tremendous irony in the story (I adore irony). Abdu likes Julie, but there is no doubt that a major part of her attraction is that her family is quite wealthy and well-connected. Abdu's fierce dream is to escape his unnamed backward third-world country and become a legitimate part of Western capitalist society. Julie's "dream" seems to be to have someone to support, to be aligned with, and she has chosen Abdu. Neither loves one another, but they are drifting in the NOW.
This comes to a screeching halt when Abdu is reported as an illegal and is forced to go back to his despised home country, in spite of all the efforts that Julie and some of her friends make. Abdu is disappointed that Julie isn't willing to ask her father to help him, but Julie is adamant and does get some help from her surrogate father, her Uncle.
Things continue to spin out of control for Abdu as Julie purchases two tickets to his country. He seems unwilling to cut off their relationship, even though it hasn't been as helpful as he had hoped, and he insists that they marry as it would be impossible for him to take her back with him as anything other than his wife.
Thus begins the ironic journey of Ibrahim (Abdu's real name) and Julie.
For instead of hating the nameless country, its poor hygiene, corrupt politics, and mud huts, Julie falls in love with it...falls in love with Ibrahim's family and with the simple life contained there. and the family falls in love with Julie.
Ibrahim never waivers in his commitment to his Western dream, but it becomes increasingly difficult for him to maintain his resolve without hurting the people that he loves...especially his mother and also his uncle. Julie was intended to be Ibrahim's ship to a better life, but instead, she turns into a boat anchor, with the potential to tether him forever to the place he has grown to hate so very much. Ironically, what Ibrahim despises, Julie romanticises and adores. Their values are completely opposite...which does not bode well for a marriage.
Throughout the story Julie has been a quiet comfort to Ibrahim as he doggedly pursues a visa to a western country--ANY western country--while she just as quietly develops a dream of her own.
This is made clear when the coveted visa finally arrives...helped in great part by the efforts of Julie's mother and stepfather in California (without Julie's permission). Ibrahim is ecstatic. His plans were finally coming together. Julie would go to California and stay with her mother for awhile, which could be useful, developing contacts there. Ibrahim would go to Detroit on his own and live the bare, scraping life of an immigrant once more, until he could accumulate enough money, get a foothold...
And then the mouse roared. Julie refused to go..not just to California, but to go anywhere. She decided to stay with his family. She was happy. she wanted to have a child, to teach English, to be content. For her it was enough, more than enough. For Ibrahim it was death to his materialistic dream: he was obsessed with everything that the First World had to offer. He would prove that he was good enough, that he was worthy, that he was equal. And to top it off, he had allowed himself to fall in love with Julie! His frustration and testosterone were palpable.
In the end, Ibrahim leaves alone and the relatives are told the story that Julie would follow in a couple of weeks...once Ibrahim has a place arranged and so forth. But certainly the mother and Julie know that this is not the case. They become co-conspirators to entice Ibrahim back to the homeland.
Perhaps just as enticing are the open questions remaining at the end of the book:
Is Julie pregnant? I thought she very well may be as it was pretty clear that her birth control pill supply had to be gone for some time. if she WAS pregnant, then what? Would Ibrahim return because of the child?
If Julie isn't pregnant, what then? What might happen to Ibrahim? His chances of making a success appear slim, and yet he is incredibly determined, bright, and calculating. He might find another "Julie" who is more practically helpful to his cause. Would he risk his family's, i.e., his mother's, disapproval, since Julie is now a loved member of the family? He is muslim so perhaps he can say "I divorce you" three time and cut Julie lose. What would happen then? Would Ibrahim's family stand by her anyway?
So if Ibrahim does make his way in the US, what then? My book club member, Kris, wisely observed that the first person he would want to bring to the US would be his mother. He loves and respects her and would want to give her a chance at success, too. I think that if the mother went to Detroit then Julie would, too...maybe.
But in the end, I was left with the sense that there wouldn't be much happiness for Ibrahim. Without bad intentions, Julie undermined his efforts and rather than becoming his ship, she sank it. Julie had from the start been completely maleable, adaptable, so Ibrahim had assumed that she would continue to follow his lead. So focused on his own goals that he stopped paying attention to Julie's. Yet no matter what happens--or doesn't happen--I don't think he would ever be content to live peacefully in Africa the way Julie could. Fate has cast Ibrahim a mean blow: he has drunk the Western koolaid and he is addicted. He will always be looking to "score."
This is the first book I've read in a bookclub I've just joined and i really like this story. A doctor in the group was very frustrated because she sa...moreThis is the first book I've read in a bookclub I've just joined and i really like this story. A doctor in the group was very frustrated because she said that most of the medical information was inaccurate, but that didn't affect me as I didn't know any better. I thought that the author wrote beautifully. . Loved so many of his descriptions, observations. Everyone liked the Hema character the best. Her "pilot" story was hilarious.(less)
Not an easy read because of the context (torture and disappearances in the aftermath of the Argentinan coupe in the 70's), but I was somewhat prepared...moreNot an easy read because of the context (torture and disappearances in the aftermath of the Argentinan coupe in the 70's), but I was somewhat prepared as I had read his book of short stories, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" (which I highly recommend). After I finished the book I watched a few brief video interviews with the author, Nathan Englander, and one of his comments was that he needs to write a "pressurized novel." His apparent meaning is that, in this case, he spent ten years distilling a huge number of characters and events down to what remains in The Ministry of Special Cases. Honestly, that makes sense to me because I do feel that his book is positively imbued with so many layers of meaning and message that it is a bit exhausting to absorb (and I think that writing it exhausted him).
What did I love about this book? The mood, the rhythm of the words, the sense that I was being taken on a somber, even dangerous, journey. That I was inside this story, a part of it. I never once felt detached. Englander made me feel the characters' fear, pain, joy, confusion, hope, humor, irony, bitterness, love, poignancy, desperation, emptiness, isolation, struggle...
Frankly, I shudder at the thought of being obsessed with this story for ten years.
I'm really glad I read it and I recommend that you do, too. However, I am now in the need of a hug and a few hours in the sunshine counting my blessings...
Help me answer some questions that I have from the book:
What is the relationship between Audrey and Tasker and Mabry? Are they related? I started to t...moreHelp me answer some questions that I have from the book:
What is the relationship between Audrey and Tasker and Mabry? Are they related? I started to think that Tasker might be her father (or grandfather, not sure) ...from the references made to him having relations with a few church members; Audrey's saying that her mother had to raise her in Washington DC as it would have been painful to stay in Wells; and Audrey's unexplained devotion to Tasker. And if this isn't the case, then how to explain Audrey's connection to the family? it has to be more than Cooter, at least I believe that it must.
Now my review of the book is that i did enjoy it, but that although i live in Charlotte, NC and have done for over 26 years, i didn't grow up in the South and have difficulty relating to the social and racial mores and the kind of wandering prose in some "southern" books, i.e., Faulkner, Pat Conroy, Thomas Wolfe. A friend of mine highly recommended this book and Reynolds Price in general, so i will read some of his other novels to see if I can tap into what my friend finds so compelling.