This is why I love being in a book club. I never would have plucked this novel off the shelf, and if I'd started it on my own, I would have put it asiThis is why I love being in a book club. I never would have plucked this novel off the shelf, and if I'd started it on my own, I would have put it aside after 50 pages. It took me more than that to get into the story of Sunny, a woman whose Stepford facade starts to crumble after her husband blasts off to help start a moon colony. Sunny is left alone, pregnant, with a dying mother and a preschool-age son who suffers from autism.
The story bounces back and forth between the present and Sunny's past. She met her husband, Maxon, when they were children, and they helped each other through their childhoods: Sunny was born bald and never grew hair and her independent streak is not always appreciated in their small town; Maxon has Asperger tendencies and suffers abuse from his father and older brothers.
These paragraphs do nothing to describe Netzer's writing style. Her strength is in describing the inner experience of people in difficult or painful situations, but she does this without making the book unwieldy or grim. This is a love story and a story about motherhood but it also is a meditation on autism and whether people on that spectrum need to be "fixed." Highly recommended. ...more
I read a lot. Good books, great books, fluffy books, serious books. Every so often, I discover a really good book and then I probably nag you to readI read a lot. Good books, great books, fluffy books, serious books. Every so often, I discover a really good book and then I probably nag you to read it.
I expect to find one of those really good books on a regular basis. But All the Light We Cannot See is that rarity, that book I cannot quite believe exists because every page is worth reading and the images come back to me as I idle at a red light or pack lunchboxes in the morning. The book I pick up intending to read a few pages and look up an hour later. In this case, I didn't wonder where the time went. It went to World War II-era Europe, where German orphan Werner demonstrates his genius by building a radio from scraps and blind Marie-Laure learns to navigate Paris with the help of her father, who constructs a dollhouse version of their arrondissement so she can memorize the streets and landmarks.
You've read some of these stories before Doerr published his now Pulitzer-prize-winning novel. The good kid who gets caught in the Nazi machine. The brave French citizens who risk death to aid the resistance. The Germans who realize too late that silence and complicity will not protect them or their loved ones. But Doerr's gorgeous metaphors and his more-poetic-than-some-poetry prose keep these characters and their story alive long after you reluctantly close the book. I rarely say this, but 500 pages wasn't enough.
This was our book club pick and it was a good one for this week: easy read but interesting enough to entertain. A woman finds a letter that her husbanThis was our book club pick and it was a good one for this week: easy read but interesting enough to entertain. A woman finds a letter that her husband wrote to her, to be opened after his death. She reads it. Echoes of Pandora, sort of. I liked some of the characters but the whole story did not come together for me. Worth a read if you want something light....more
McCann covers more than 150 years of Irish history in this novel, which follows four generations of women in a single family. The first half frames thMcCann covers more than 150 years of Irish history in this novel, which follows four generations of women in a single family. The first half frames their stories in a fictionalized version of historical events: a transatlantic flight, Frederick Douglass' visit to Ireland, George Mitchell's 1998 peace talks. The second half focuses on the women. Lily is just a teen when she escapes the poverty and near-servitude of her life in Dublin for the United States. Her daughter pursues a journalism career and single motherhood in the face of unending sexism, and the granddaughter finds herself back on the other side of the Atlantic.
McCann's wandering, poetic style manages to convey gallons of story in drops of prose. The final section deals with the great-granddaughter, already an old woman at the time of the peace talks. Her story didn't catch fire for me and I wanted a different end to the novel, but that didn't take away from the grace with which McCann outlined Ireland's troubled history and some of its impact on the story of the United States.
When I was a teenager, I didn't go to camp like the characters in this book. I worked at a camp and haunted the library. That mid-to-late-80s era of pWhen I was a teenager, I didn't go to camp like the characters in this book. I worked at a camp and haunted the library. That mid-to-late-80s era of popular fiction included a number of Baby Boomer sagas, and while I enjoyed the stories of 60s protests and folk music festivals, I quickly grew tired of the middle-aged navel-gazing and pretentious references to the spiritual meanings in life.
I'm a middle-aged Xer now and Meg Wolitzer has, in my mind, achieved the impossible. She took the self-involved Boomer novel and made it, well, interesting.
Six teens meet at a creative arts summer camp in the early 70s. They remain close until the end of high school, when a violent incident creates a rift among the friends that ripples through the next decades. Most of the story is told from the point of view of Jules, a moderately talented actor who goes on to live a rather ordinary life of marriage, career and child, while constantly envying her best friend, Ash, who married the gifted artist Ethan and shares his immense fame and wealth.
Late in the book, Ethan says that everyone copes with some kind of trauma in youth, and unless you were raped or tortured or starved, you need to get over it and move on with your life. Wolitzer keeps her story alive by showing how we do, and do not, recover from the decisions we make as young people and the decisions that are made for us.
I finally finished this book. About thirty million other people have reviewed it, so I will just say a few things. Donna Tartt is an excellent writerI finally finished this book. About thirty million other people have reviewed it, so I will just say a few things. Donna Tartt is an excellent writer and when I am rolling with her, the pages fly. Unfortunately, too many of these 800 pages are devoted to endless descriptions of drug trips, plus Tartt never uses a metaphor when three or four will do. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it isn't my favorite style. Still, I wanted to finish the story of Theo Decker, whose middle-school life is turned upside down when he and his mother are inside the Met during a terrorist bombing. His mother is killed and Theo's life disintegrates when he goes to live with his wayward father in Las Vegas. He meets two things that will change his life: hard drugs and a hard-living friend named Boris. I forgot to mention that Theo stole a painting from the museum when he escaped. He also provided water to a dying old man, who gave him a ring and the address of his partner, who befriends Theo and later teaches him the art of furniture restoration. Tartt is gifted at balancing plotlines and I enjoyed some of her end-of-tale philosophizing.
ETA my mini-review halfway through this book, as told to Julie J. I like the story (just a little fantastical) but Tartt's writing annoys the heck out of me. I prefer a less flowery style and her shade of purple doesn't work for me....more
I don't give many five-star ratings but Woodrell deserves one for this gorgeous and bleak story of Ree Dolly, a teenage girl battling poverty and theI don't give many five-star ratings but Woodrell deserves one for this gorgeous and bleak story of Ree Dolly, a teenage girl battling poverty and the meth culture in rural Missouri. Her crank-cooking father disappears and Ree must find him or lose her house to the bail bondsman. Woodrell elevates this powerful story with his evocative writing; he wields local idioms and vocabulary like a native (he grew up in the Ozarks) and is honest and unapologetic about the lifestyle and moral code in the region.
Ree cares for her two younger brothers and her mentally ill mother, and finds joy in a close relationship with her best friend, Gail. When she journeys to a nearby cluster of homes to confront relatives about her missing father, she is met with cold violence and finds support from an unlikely ally.
It is tempting to quote the entire book but this passage illustrates a number of the novel's themes: family loyalty, poverty, and Ree's determination.
"Ree's grand hope was that these boys would not be dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean. So many Dolly kids were that way, ruined before they had chin hair, groomed to live outside square law and abide by the remorseless blood-soaked commandments that governed lives led outside square law."
This is a fictionalized account of a 200-year-old murder in Iceland and the fate of Agnes Magnusdottir, one of three people convicted of the crime. AgThis is a fictionalized account of a 200-year-old murder in Iceland and the fate of Agnes Magnusdottir, one of three people convicted of the crime. Agnes is sent to a family in the remote valley where she lived as a child and must work the farm until it is time for her execution. The descriptions of the barren Icelandic landscape are beautiful and Kent clearly did an extraordinary amount of research but for me, this was not enough to make this a terrific read. The tiny relationships Agnes develops with her host family and a local clergyman provide a few specks of hope, but I found this book relentlessly grim and I would not have finished it except it was a book club selection. ...more
Three stars often feels like a cop-out, but in this case, it is an average. I enjoyed this book maybe two stars-worth--not really enough to suggest yoThree stars often feels like a cop-out, but in this case, it is an average. I enjoyed this book maybe two stars-worth--not really enough to suggest you read it. A young woman reflects on her childhood and her siblings' (separate) disappearances. I just didn't love the style, although Fowler is a good and often funny writer. This was a book club selection and it gets four stars for that purpose because it offers plenty to discuss. I don't want to list the potential topics and give away a surprise that occurs partway through the book....more