This was a reread. I first read this novella and companion story not long after they were translated into English, and I was approximately the age of...moreThis was a reread. I first read this novella and companion story not long after they were translated into English, and I was approximately the age of the main characters. Twenty years later, my perspective on these tales is altered but my appreciation for the writing has not.
Yoshimoto writes about loss but these are not sad stories, at least not wholly sad. She describes the sensations of grief and the tiny steps we must take to recover from the death of a loved one. You can imagine her selecting words carefully, holding them to the light and discarding the ones with even the tiniest flaws. The result is a story with a perfect shape; each facet is essential.
I never went back and read more of her books but I will, and soon.(less)
A young couple purchases an old house in gentrifying Ann Arbor, Michigan, (Ianna!!) and the wife, Kate, throws herself into the renovation as an escap...moreA young couple purchases an old house in gentrifying Ann Arbor, Michigan, (Ianna!!) and the wife, Kate, throws herself into the renovation as an escape from her troubled marriage. Meanwhile, Walker Price is out of prison after serving 18 years for killing his mother's boyfriend inside that house, and he is trying to reclaim part of his past. One of Kate's teaching colleagues at the high school also has a connection to the house. By somewhat believable coincidence, both men end up helping Kate with the repair work after her husband, Stuart, loses his job and leaves her.
I liked this book quite a bit and found the story compelling. A few things bugged me; I thought Laken had too many coincidental meetings in the story and there were some extraneous plot tangents. A whole subplot about the husband's autistic brother didn't really seem to fit the rest of the novel. But Laken's pacing is good and the novel works best not as a thriller but as a story of three people trying to find themselves within (literally) the walls of a house. (less)
The Cradle follows two stories a decade apart. In 1997, Marissa sends her husband, Matt, on a quest to find the cradle in which she was rocked as a ba...moreThe Cradle follows two stories a decade apart. In 1997, Marissa sends her husband, Matt, on a quest to find the cradle in which she was rocked as a baby. She is about to have their first child and wants the cradle, which disappeared in a burglary not long after her mother abandoned her and her father. Ten years later, Renee and her husband seek ways to cope with anxiety and fear after their son, Adam (!), deploys to the Middle East.
The characters' lives are intertwined but this is not a case of bizarre coincidence: author Patrick Somerville created a connection and then used the alternating viewpoints to build the story. He is a skilled writer and provides exactly the right amount of detail--nothing feels overwrought or undertold. It is a mystery, a family tale and a meditation on the past and how we weave the loose ends into our present. Highly recommended.(less)
I enjoyed this light book but felt it had some problems. I've read other Jane Hamilton novels and her other books are not comedies, although she inclu...moreI enjoyed this light book but felt it had some problems. I've read other Jane Hamilton novels and her other books are not comedies, although she includes humor on occasion. Her characters include a mentally disabled woman who dreams of love and a woman who is jailed after her friend's daughter dies while in her care. Hamilton is a genius with these situations and her novels are powerful and deft--I admire her writing and I can see why she would want to take on a lighter topic. In this book, Laura Rider and her husband, Charlie, meet a local celebrity--a public radio host--and decide to make the woman fall in love with Charlie as part of Laura's research; she wants to write a romance novel.
The caper succeeds, and the downfall is appropriate to this age of email and thoughtless correspondence. I enjoyed the humor and the way Hamilton reveres but also pokes fun at public radio listeners. I also liked that the characters are in their 40s--not every stupid, goofy thing is done by teenagers in love. I liked that the book contained no vampires. But the ironic tone kept me from connecting to the characters and I never got a sense of Laura. It was hard to get a handle on Jenna, the radio host, too. Is she a lovelorn woman or just selfish and manipulative? Why does Charlie think he was once kidnapped by aliens? These things were fun to read about but also a little confusing.
If you like Hamilton's style, I would give this a try, but don't disregard her if you don't like the book. Pick up another one of her novels, esp. The Book of Ruth, and see what she does best. I am glad I read it, though. The good parts are really good and Hamilton is so observant that I found myself agreeing with so many of her paragraphs even as the characters totally lost me.(less)
I've read quite a few Alice Hoffman books and this isn't my favorite, but I would recommend it for a relaxing read. She tells the stories of three wom...moreI've read quite a few Alice Hoffman books and this isn't my favorite, but I would recommend it for a relaxing read. She tells the stories of three women in three long chapters, set in 1999, 1966 and 1952. The central characters in each story appear as peripheral characters in other stories and the three tales are connected by a tragic accident that occurs in a small London hotel. I particularly enjoyed the middle section about Frieda, a doctor's daughter who escapes her small town for a maid's job in London and meets a drug-addicted musician. I loved the little pieces of each woman's story and how they interconnected and I found myself flipping back in the book to recall where someone or something fit into the tale. I also like how Hoffman doesn't answer every question or tie up every loose end--and just who IS that young boy Lucy meets on the train at the end of the book? A future famous musician? But the whole "third angel" theme didn't work for me and I never quite understood who the third angel was supposed to be. Usually, Hoffman's magical realism works for me but it didn't in this story...still, I really had fun with it.(less)
I loved everything about this book: the main character and the voice, the intersection of biology and culture and the setting of mid-20th-century Detr...moreI loved everything about this book: the main character and the voice, the intersection of biology and culture and the setting of mid-20th-century Detroit, which is where and when my mother grew up. (less)
I am giving this five stars because Goodreads doesn't allow me to give six. This is easily one of the most gorgeous novels I've read. Haruf takes a sm...moreI am giving this five stars because Goodreads doesn't allow me to give six. This is easily one of the most gorgeous novels I've read. Haruf takes a small town in eastern Colorado and concentrates on the interlocking stories of a pair of rancher brothers, a pregnant teenager and a teacher and his sons. Without wasting a syllable, he covers six months in which each character navigates a significant life change. Haruf picks the perfect scenes and then renders them with prose that seems simple, but is masterful in its craft. The episode in which the two men purchase a crib for the girl's baby brought me to tears with its emotion and detail. Haruf doesn't use quote marks, which took a little time to get used to, but that is the only off note for me in this novel. Highly recommended!(less)
I am so glad I decided to reread Barbara Kingsolver's debut. Although the scope is narrower than Kingsolver's more recent novels, her themes of self-s...moreI am so glad I decided to reread Barbara Kingsolver's debut. Although the scope is narrower than Kingsolver's more recent novels, her themes of self-sufficiency and identity and even her love of plants appear in this first book. Taylor Greer leaves her home and mother in rural Kentucky and lands in Tucson, Arizona, minus two tires and plus a toddler girl who was thrust into her car late one night outside an Oklahoma bar. She gets a job from the tire shop owner, who also shelters Central American refugees, meets a fellow Kentucky expat and starts to build a new family at the edge of the desert. (less)
I am pretty sure I don't have anything new to say about Gatsby, other than I forgot that St. Olaf gets a shout-out in the book. I like Nick a little l...moreI am pretty sure I don't have anything new to say about Gatsby, other than I forgot that St. Olaf gets a shout-out in the book. I like Nick a little less than I did when I was younger and see him as more of an unreliable narrator, which means I don't really like anyone in the book.
Our clothes look different and our music sounds different but the tragedy of Gatsby is visible everywhere we look, even in 2012. We see ourselves as the land of the second chance but we do not always learn from our mistakes before we try again. So a new generation will debate the green light and the creepy billboard and F.Scott will linger in the American canon.(less)
John Ames is in his seventies when he sits down to write a letter to his six-year-old son. Advancing age and a heart condition convince Rev. Ames he h...moreJohn Ames is in his seventies when he sits down to write a letter to his six-year-old son. Advancing age and a heart condition convince Rev. Ames he has little time left, and so he shares his observations on faith and love, intertwined with family history. Not much happens--he shares a few of his grandfather's adventures during the Civil War and the ne'er-do-well escapades of his godson. But most of the book is Ames' reflections and his perspective on the world as seen from small-town Iowa. I read this in small segments--the writing is beautiful but this is not a page-turner. Still, phrases and thoughts from the book stayed with me long after my last few crime novels faded from memory.(less)
My review is not completely unbiased. A friend's sister's friend wrote this book, so by Jewish geography rules, I think we are third cousins or someth...moreMy review is not completely unbiased. A friend's sister's friend wrote this book, so by Jewish geography rules, I think we are third cousins or something.
The story follows siblings Bits and Ash. When they were children, someone kidnapped their six-year-old sister, Alena, a nightmare that tore apart the family. Bits copes by sleeping around; Ash by moving to Israel and living as an Orthodox Jew. When their mother tells Bits that Alena's remains were discovered in a park, Bits flies to Israel to convince her brother to return home for the funeral.
Spechler alternates chapters among Ash, Bits and Ellie, the mother. I sometimes struggled to tell the voices apart, and I preferred reading the Bits and Ash chapters. Ellie never really came alive to me and I found her storyline unconvincing at times. The best parts of the book explore the sibling bond and how it is strengthened and weakened by family tragedy. The story also touches on themes of truth/lies and guilt/responsibility. She packs a lot into 350 pages and I thought the novel ended well; I am picky about endings. I look forward to future novels by this author.(less)
I don't know which other books were in the running, but I can see why the Pulitzer committee awarded the prize to Empire Falls. I loved this book. So...moreI don't know which other books were in the running, but I can see why the Pulitzer committee awarded the prize to Empire Falls. I loved this book. So many novels try for an ensemble cast and lose the concept of the central character. In Russo's novel, the action revolves around Miles Roby, a boy from small-town Maine who escaped to college more than 20 years ago, but returned to care for his dying mother. He runs the town diner and remains in the orbit of Francine Whiting, who owns most of the town and, in her mind, the people who live there.
Miles' wife left him for a health club owner, his teenage daughter tries to befriend a troubled boy at school and the woman Miles has loved for years thinks he's just too nice a guy. As Miles tries to figure out his next phase of life, events in Empire Falls swirl around his memories of his mother and his Catholic faith and create both real and imagined barriers to change.
Russo's prose is perfect. Everything advances the story, even the smallest description, but the book never feels plot-heavy. Russo also has a gift for not divulging too much; not everything is tied in a bow and the reader's imagination takes part in the storytelling.
One of my favorite passages is near the beginning of the book. "Miles liked the idea of a God who, when He at last had the opportunity to return His attention to His children, might shake His head with wonder and mutter, "Jesus. Look what they're up to now."(less)
Amusing alternate history novel about literary detectives who try to rescue Jane Eyre after she is captured from the original Bronte manuscript. Origi...moreAmusing alternate history novel about literary detectives who try to rescue Jane Eyre after she is captured from the original Bronte manuscript. Original, entertaining and a quick read.(less)