What starts out as a story about a family of missionaries who go to Africa to save the souls of the uncivilized tribes within the Congo ends up being...moreWhat starts out as a story about a family of missionaries who go to Africa to save the souls of the uncivilized tribes within the Congo ends up being an indictment of western cultural arrogance and the never ending belief in "subdue and conquer" that inspired colonialism.
The four girls, Rachel., Leah, Adah and Ruth May, and their mother Orleanna, all take turns narrating the story and each share a different outlook on Africa, its people and their own place in the world. As the story unfolds, each girl shares their individual perspective, sometimes on the same event and the readers is granted a unique behind the scene view revealing how each girl reacts to each events. At the beginning of the story, each of the 5 females share an unwavering vision that their culture, and therefore their view on the world, is superior, righteous and just. But by the end of the novel, each woman has a unique and different view from what they brought with them into Africa. They end up reflecting on the values they grew up with and by the conclusion of the book, each character's outlook undergoes a reconstruction with the final product being totally of their own creation and unique from their other family members.
The quote from the authors prologue is a wonderful statement. "Everything you're sure is right can be wrong in another place. " (less)
I picked this book up upon the recommendation of a friend whose literary opinions mean a lot to me. The first thing I have to say about this book is,...moreI picked this book up upon the recommendation of a friend whose literary opinions mean a lot to me. The first thing I have to say about this book is, I had no idea what to expect. I know that I wasn't expecting the runaway metaphors and analogies, the multitude of British cultural references (which occasionally went over my head), and I wasn't expecting the silliness and chuckle-inducing funniness of this book. I also wasn't expecting such a different take on the question of good, evil and humanity. Sometimes the tongue-in-cheek writing style did get a bit over the top, but by and large it was an enjoyable read.
The cast of characters includes a sect of extremely loquacious nuns that secretly work for hell (The Chattering Order of Saint Beryl), Pollution as the replacement for a now retired horseman, Pestilence (thanks to the invention of Penicillin), a bibliophile Angel (known as Aziraphale) who is not so sure he wants heaven to win, a Demon named Crowley who is more concerned with his antique Bentley than stealing souls, the slacker descendants of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder, and even Agnes Nutter who lives up to her name. This makes for a concoction that is rife with sharp, pinpointed jokes that retain their bite. (less)
It is really a 3.5, but since 1/2 stars are not allowed....
“Isn’t it amazing,how, when you strip away everything, people are so much alike?” - Lacy Ho...moreIt is really a 3.5, but since 1/2 stars are not allowed....
“Isn’t it amazing,how, when you strip away everything, people are so much alike?” - Lacy Houghton.
Reading "Nineteen Minutes," I thought-- "Who gives a damn about Peter Houghton, he's a killer, a monster." But Picoult being the author she is, brings us on a journey of the past and present of Peter's childhood, the taunting, the bullying, and the terror of his every day existence.
On his first day of Kindergarten, his mom has packed a lovely lunch in his little tin box: sandwiches, Twinkies, an apple. Somebody throws the whole box out of the bus window and the reader is left with an image of a large red apple rolling down the cement highway. And this is only the beginning of Peter's tormented school experience that lasts for 11 more years.
I am not saying this is a justification for Peter to murder ten high school classmates. But it is a scenario of how one can be pushed to the edge and it does help reader feel empathy and a little understanding for this poor misfit.
The narrative weaves back and forth, each character getting his or her chance to speak and analyze the tragedy. We hear from Peter's mom, the families of the victims, the students, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and teachers. In the end, the reader can decide if they truly want to forgive Peter or understand him or sympathize with him.
However, I must confess that I never developed much sympathy for Josie. I guess I have met one too many people like that in real life.
This is the second book I have read by Jodi Picoult and I must admit that I liked my first read, "My Sisters Keeper" better. But I wonder if that is since I have now been introduced to her formula.
The problem with historical fiction is there are no surprises. But that fact withstanding, this is another wonderful chapter in the Henry II and Elean...moreThe problem with historical fiction is there are no surprises. But that fact withstanding, this is another wonderful chapter in the Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine saga. The epic story continued in part II of their trilogy. This was a bit more familiar to me as it dealt with Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Penman is a wonderful author and gave life to the characters. The only drawback would be there are so many characters, and some seemed so minor that they probably barely needed mentioning. So even though this portion was not as action packed, it was still dramatic story and superb follow up to When Christ and His Saints Slept. (less)
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys - best friends - are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the...moreIn the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys - best friends - are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument.
I would call A Prayer for Owen Meany a modern day tragedy. Owen's life parallels the life of Christ -- not just in the immaculate conception (which seemed kind of hokey to me) or the sacrificial death, but in the way that from very young he is a leader, the center and mover of everything. It even says at one point that special light always shone on him. He is the The Voice -- the voice of the people. He grows up struggling against the authority of the headmaster, and it is a struggle he wins by losing. He is loved by everyone but even those to whom he is closest do not understand his calling, his destiny. And I guess the end result is what would've happened to Christ's followers had there been no resurrection: severe scarring and bitterness, a wound they cannot overcome. Hester turns her wound into "success" through angry music. John basically does nothing but let his pain eat him alive.
The specific focus of this book is the type of religious manifestation or miracle that would be necessary to make someone believe in God. Some people are able to draw on a faith in a “hand-me-down” story, others look for magic tricks, and others look for a sign on such a grand scale so as to leave no doubt. This novel contrasts faith, fate and doubt.
Owen in many ways represents the spiritual condition of humankind; the difference between most people and Owen is that Owen knows he is the instrument of God. His fatalistic faith centers around his prophetic knowledge of his own death, for which he prepares all his life. Owen believes that everything that happens is the will of God. How could Owen Meany have known what he ‘knew’? It’s no answer, of course, to believe in accidents, or in coincidences; but is God really a better answer?
My biggest complaint with the novel is about the personality of John. Or, more accurately, the lack of it. He is sidekick to the extreme -- a spectator to Owen's story. Irving seems to go to great effort to make him a nothing, a nobody -- from the symbolic "Joseph" role in the nativity to complete sexual failure as a teenager to his suspected status as a "nonpracticing homosexual" as an adult. Also, the story is told in an almost rambling, first person narrative in memoir type form. It seemed a bit disjointed at times, especially when interspersed with John’s commentary and opinion of current events. These themes never made sense to me as to how they related to the story or the characters. John struggles throughout the book to resolve his religious faith with his skepticism and doubt and there doesn’t seem to be any conclusion.
However, I did find the ending of the novel to be very powerful. I had not realized how much I cared for the characters, specifically Owen. And I guess the biggest compliment I can pay to Irving is to say that when I read the climax of the story I was sad for the rest of the day. This despite the fact that I knew what was coming. (less)