I just want to start by saying I'm not much of a ChickLit person. Not opposed to it. Have been known to read it. But it is generally not something I r...moreI just want to start by saying I'm not much of a ChickLit person. Not opposed to it. Have been known to read it. But it is generally not something I reach for at the book store. I often find the stories contrived, or not well thought out, or designed to trigger certain emotions. (will. never. read. Nicholas. Sparks. again. ever.)
So why did I pick up this one? Well, technically, I didn't. I won this book for my book club. As I opened the box, I sighed. Oh. One of these. But I got my gals their copies and we finally met over wine and food to discuss this book. This book that surprised the crap out of me.
This story chronicles the "new normal" of many families. A blended family faces pretty normal odds: difficult children, "evil" step-mom, harsh ex problems. Nothing too out of the ordinary -- at first. However, the story does it with grace and with understanding from all sides. The author's ability to change voice and not show any (or much) favoritism was refreshing. Characters wither and revive. Characters lack sympathy and then earn it. Very well rounded reading.
What about my group? Did they like it? The majority said yes. There were a few hold outs, I will admit. One comment, "I felt I was reading about the neighbors." Another, "I really was irritated by the dad." "I just wanted to shake that girl!" "Why don't people just talk to each other?" To all of these comments, I say great! This means the story resonated with you -- good and bad. Getting an emotional response from a book is a good thing. It means it plucked at something and made your heart stand up. I've read too many lately that did absolutely nothing for me or were so contrived that the writing itself simply made me angry. Not this book.
Lastly, I want to say that a 4-star rating from me is a big deal. There are better reads out there that I've only given 3 stars. Why so many for this book? I give 4 stars to a book I would recommend, and I would recommend this book. I recommend this book to someone who would like a nice, quick read but wants to finish it glad that they did. I recommend this book to someone who has just finished a slew of bad books and wants affirmation that a decent writer still exists. I recommend this book to someone who has finished an emotionally draining story and needs something to recharge the heart. Again, I recommend this book.
This book was a complete mind bender. It was (a) not what I expected AT ALL and (b) very well thought out. So if you are looking for a book that takes...moreThis book was a complete mind bender. It was (a) not what I expected AT ALL and (b) very well thought out. So if you are looking for a book that takes nothing for granted, this is the book for you.
However, I will say that there aren't any characters in this book that I really like. The author takes you on a roller coaster ride. I'm annoyed by Amy or Nick, I'm surprised by Amy or Nick, I maybe like Amy or Nick, I friggin' hate Amy or Nick. Take your pick. You will, most likely, feel that way about either of these main characters at some point throughout this book. Generally, I need to connect with at least one character in a book to give it a good rating. They don't have to be good people, just someone I can connect with or understand. I can't say that about either of these characters which is odd. Odd that I still liked it. I think the story is what I wanted. Not the characters.
I do have to qualify my opinion with the fact that I listened to the audiobook. Doing so will sometimes change my opinion of a book. Some books are simply better read and some really come to life in audio format. I can say, from my perspective, that this title is one of the latter. The voice actors did a spectacular job (I've listened to some really bad, bad, bad narrations before). Nick is voiced by a male actor and Amy a female. That simple fact made much of this book so much more palatable.
I won't give spoilers so I won't discuss it much more. I will just say, expect the unexpected. Crazy.(less)
Polygamy and its history in the LDS church is the topic of this novel. It has a very interesting history, and sadly continues to this day. The 19th Wi...morePolygamy and its history in the LDS church is the topic of this novel. It has a very interesting history, and sadly continues to this day. The 19th Wife does a great job of shining a light on it from the perspectives of both a plural wife and a child in two concurrent stories. By hiding a book within a book (coupled with letters, papers and other works), the author brings a sense of authority to the topic. However, I truly hate it when "historical documents" are fabricated to push the story along. it always makes me question the validity of the book entirely.
Regardless of the authenticity of the material, I found this book to be a page-turner. I frequently found myself putting the book down to share my disgust with my husband (only one thank you very much). Not just disgust over the practice of polygamy, but the blindness that people have when it comes to religion. I won't get on my soapbox here. (I try to avoid religion and politics with friends.) But I cannot stand to see good people corrupted by bullying religious tactics.
As far as the actual mechanics of the book, I think the author did a great job of weaving the stories together and integrating the past with the future. Little snippets were more forthcoming as both stories progressed allowing for reader discovery without mental handrails. I'm always thankful for that.
I also think the author did a good job of attacking a period of LDS history without disparaging the Mormon religion overmuch. I know and am related to many LDS members, and I'm sure they may not agree. This is a touchy subject and a point in their history that is shrouded and hidden. I honestly wonder how thoroughly they themselves understand it. As with any church, its history is poorly taught. Too many skeletons. Focus is always to the future.
Ultimately, I liked the book and would recommend it to others with the caveat that they read it understanding that many of the historical references are fabricated. Don't run around quoting it like an encyclopedic reference. Be sure the parts you quote are factual.(less)
This book caused a little rift in my book club. I didn't really care for it. Its not bad. Its not great. They thought I was nuts. I'm surprised Jean s...moreThis book caused a little rift in my book club. I didn't really care for it. Its not bad. Its not great. They thought I was nuts. I'm surprised Jean still speaks to me.
The subject matter, early onset Alzheimers, is important. But, when reading, I try very hard to divorce myself from the subject and enjoy (or endure) the novel. At the end, I felt myself thinking, "meh." Another novel about a debilitating disease that we can do nothing about but which strikes fear into our hearts and makes us question our own sanity every time we forget to buy milk.
I applaud the author for tackling a tough subject and doing so from the perspective of the patient. A daunting task. However, I was so bored and irritated with Alice, the main character. The first portion of the book establishes Alice's routines -- which I understand is necessary to grasp when things start going awry. It also established why I really disliked Alice. She is a snooty, affluent intellectual with a snobbish dislike of everyone who does not follow her path. Her relationships with her children are only successful if the children themselves please her. If not, you're out. I hate this type of person. Sympathy is pretty much out the window.
As much as I really disliked this woman, I'm glad the author made her the victim. (And no, not just because I thought she was a cow.) It immediately dispelled the belief that this disease would not affect a physically fit, highly intelligent, and extremely active individual. Brava! I was also glad to see her hubris diminish as she came to grips with her situation. (And yes, that was catty.)
In the end, I thought the author used the most ideal scenario to introduce this issue. Her character had the financial means to pursue quality care. Her character lived in an area that had top-of-the-line research and care centers to hand. Her character had a varied and lively support system through friends who could help with her work load and family who could apparently stop or interrupt their lives to care for her. Her character even got to stop (i.e., the book ended) before all the truly ugly violent episodes and physical deterioration occurred. In fact, she ended up being more the simple smiling auntie in the corner that never really seems to get the jokes. Ugh. How many victims get this "perfect" scenario? Most can't afford proper treatment. Most can't afford to lose their income with little interruption to the family. Most families can't drop everything to care for them. Most cannot receive professional, individualized daycare.
In the end, while I'm glad the author disproved some misconceptions about the disease, I felt that the strain it puts on real families what not well represented. This is why I'm not invested. This is why I didn't care for the book. Make Alice a working-class woman whose family becomes truly unraveled from the emotional, physical and financial ramifications, and you'll have yourself a fan.(less)