I would give it 3.5 if I could. It was a recent award winner, and I wanted to like it better than I did, but what can you do?
The story is the fictionaI would give it 3.5 if I could. It was a recent award winner, and I wanted to like it better than I did, but what can you do?
The story is the fictional retelling of the author's Great-Grandmother's life: Hattie was orphaned when she was very young. Since then she has been jumping from distant relative to distant relative, never really feeling loved or like she's home. All of a sudden, when she is 16, she gets a letter from an Uncle that she never knew she had, saying that he has died, and that he is leaving her his homestead in Montana, and if she wants it, it is hers.
So, Hattie hops on a train to Montana, only to find out that her Uncle was still proving his claim, and to keep the homestead, she has to put in 480 fence posts, and grow 80 acres of grain. The task seems impossible, but with her nearest neighbor, Karl's, help, and with the closeness she feels with Karl's family, Montana is starting to feel more and more like home.
The only problem is WWI is being fought, and Karl, being a German, is thought of as the enemy by those in town. There is no question in Hattie's mind that Karl and his family is no enemy of hers, but if she chooses them over the town, will she be able to face up to the anger she recieves from the people in the town...and even with Karl's help, will she be able to do everything she needs to turn her homestead into home for good?
I can see why this book won the award. The writing is quite good, and includes those real-life details, like clearing your throat or tripping, that are easy to add to stories, and add so much realism to them, but are so often left by the wayside.
My big big problem with the book is that it has a very sad ending. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I thought, well, this is based on her Great-Grandmother. She can't exactly make it a happy story if it wasn't. Turns out, from reading the author's note at the back of the book, that her Great-Grandmother did have a happy ending! The author just thought that her Great-Grandmother's luck wasn't the norm for the time-period, so she gave the Hattie in the book the more realistic sad ending. Give me a break! I just think that is a really mean thing to do! Also, I love farmer and homesteading stories, and loved the twist that it's a teenage girl doing it, pretty much by herself, but after 1/3 of the book, the farming part of the story looses out to having the focus be on WWI, and anger at the Germans. I would have been more happy if the story had kept the original focus throughout....more
I didn't like this one as much as I had been prepared to, by the hype.
It's the true story of a young guy, whose parents both die, and he is left to raI didn't like this one as much as I had been prepared to, by the hype.
It's the true story of a young guy, whose parents both die, and he is left to raise his preteen brother. They move to Northern California, and generally live life their own way. They make mistakes, have fun, fight, make up, and grow up.
I'm going to begin with what I believe most strongly. This book would have kicked ass if it had been a collection of short stories. It reads like a burst of inspiration, followed by blah, over and over. I also believe that it would have been better if this book had been written later in life. Not that I think he was "too young" to write it, but you can tell that the events were still too raw, and too recent, to make for a good autobiographical story, with the introspection that can only come with time. Because the events were so recent, it takes more the form of, "we did this, then we did that," which feels more like a diary entry, than...um...A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I won't make potshots at the title, or the preciousness of the writing at times. It's been done before. It's warranted, but I won't do it.
The real shame is that this guy can REALLY write. I read an excerpt of this in a writing workshop book I own, (the part where he and his brother shake hands with Bill Clinton outside a restaurant), and I just had to think, it's a shame that this level of writing, as descriptive and alive as it was, was lost in the meaty hunk that made up the rest of the book. That's why I think it would have been best as a book of short stories, or moments, because there are plenty of great ones to be found...but only if you are tempted to wade through what makes up the rest....more
This book caught my eye as I was checking it in because I thought the cover was torn. Ended up, it's the way the cover is supposed to look, but by theThis book caught my eye as I was checking it in because I thought the cover was torn. Ended up, it's the way the cover is supposed to look, but by then I was intrigued by the premise of the story.
Cinderella, or Ella as she goes by, is engaged to Prince Charming, living in the castle, but unhappy with what royal life has in store for her. After a life of fending for herself, living in a castle that believes that women should do nothing more taxing or mentally stimulating than embroidery begins to feel a little stifiling. Added to that, the Prince isn't quite so Charming anymore. The problem is, now that she's gotten herself into the castle, how can she get herself back out again?
Sadly the story turned out to be a little ho-hum. I had high hopes for it, because I'm always looking for a sequel-type story to Cinderella, but I just wasn't too big on this one. It's not even because the Prince was vapid and cruel, (although who wouldn't prefer a story where the prince is actually charming?), it was mainly that there was nothing in the story that really grabbed me. It was a quick read, and my 2 favorite parts were her telling of what REALLY happened at the ball (she's amused by the belief that there was a fairy godmother involved) and the last 40 or so pages, until the very ending, which I thought was rushed, and could have tied things up better. Other than that, pretty forgettable really.
Also, just a warning, I found it a little coarse for a junior story: "crap hole" is a direct quote that's used many times, just for an example. ...more