Not to jinx it, but I've been having really good luck with short story collections lately!
If you keep at all abreast of the buzz in the literary markeNot to jinx it, but I've been having really good luck with short story collections lately!
If you keep at all abreast of the buzz in the literary marketplace, you've probably heard of this book. The buzz has been good, the reviews have been good, and the jacket is covered in praise from notable authors like Jennifer Egan, Zadie Smith, David Eggers, and Thomas Pynchon. Usually I give zero credit to any quote displayed on a jacket cover, whether I know the author or not, because frankly, just because I like an author's writing doesn't mean we have the same taste in what we read. However, in this instance, all of the buzz and reviews and plugs are accurate. This is most definitely a Work of Art.
I sincerely enjoyed every story in this book. Each one was unique, with characters I cared about, a distinctive style, and a plot that--in some way or another--included a beginning, middle, and end. The only thing that I would say about these stories as a collection (and the only reason why, if I could, I would give this a 4.9 star rating), is that I am not entirely sure how they relate to one another. While one of my favorite themes--that no one can ever know the "full story"--reveals itself in one of my favorite stories in the collection, "Puppy," it is not pervasive throughout every story. Likewise, the style used in that story--shifting perspective between characters, which is also done in the final story in the collection, "Tenth of December"--is not employed in every story. Some stories, such as two of my favorites ("Escape from Spiderhead" and "The Semplica Girl Diaries") are futuristic; yet others are not. Perhaps a more careful reader could discern the linking factor between these stories, but that lack of connection did not tarnish my reading experience.
All in all, this is most definitely a collection worth reading. ...more
This was a strange and beautiful book. Quite honestly, I could easily see it being taught in schools (at least schools willing to address religion froThis was a strange and beautiful book. Quite honestly, I could easily see it being taught in schools (at least schools willing to address religion from an unbiased standpoint), because it explores so many themes in such readily addressed historical and social contexts. I could imagine even potentially reading this for a college course and writing essays on the myriad of symbols and themes woven throughout the book.
However, I was reading this for pleasure, and about halfway through the book, I realized that if I was going to get a full understanding--or even a good partial understanding--of everything this book had to offer, I was going to have to read it again. And I simply didn't love it enough to go straight from the last page back to the first. I think it had to do with being kept at arm's length from the main character, and my inability to decide how I felt about her. Initially, of course, I was rooting for her to break free from her religious oppression, but she seemed so stubbornly determined to have her cake and eat it, too, I ultimately couldn't quite decide what to think.
All in all, the book is very beautifully written, and I think that one day I will return to it and (probably) get a lot more out of it than I did on my first pass. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that a curriculum somewhere picks this up, because I, for one, would love to read the students' resulting essays....more
I must begin by saying that the jacket cover copy does not do this book justice. I received this book in the mail quite some time ago, but I put it ofI must begin by saying that the jacket cover copy does not do this book justice. I received this book in the mail quite some time ago, but I put it off for so long, mostly because the jacket copy did not intrigue me. Even after my mother's book club reviewed it favorably, I still put it off. Reading a book about a whiney silent-film icon who first makes her debut in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s just did not seem all that interesting. However, when I finally begin reading, I was delighted to discover that the book really isn't about young arrogant Louise at all; it's about Cora, her middle-aged chaperone. It's about self-discovery, and revising one's beliefs, and understanding the past but then putting it aside for the sake of the future.
The thing I appreciated most about this book was the fact that while it certainly integrated a good deal of history and historical commentary, it didn't ram the information down your throat under the guise of your "needing to know it" in order to appreciate the plot. Cora's narration is wonderful in that way, never over-explaining but always offering just enough information to keep you, the reader, up to speed on what is happening in that period of history that impacts the narrative itself.
Unfortunately, I had to dock this book 2 stars for its ending. It simply lasted too long. Honestly, once Cora returned from New York City (I won't say any more so as not to spoil any surprises), I no longer cared about the rest of the story. Some of the changes were nice to see, but in a sentimental way, like seeing your grandparents finally accept black people or your mother admit that she actually likes your tattoo. They didn't matter, and they certainly didn't drive the story to any further conclusion. Everything that needed to be said had been said, and it's a shame Moriarty didn't have the self-restraint to stop there....more