I am deeply offended by this book, and frankly a little horrified by how well-received it is. The author claims to have done a lot of research, but alI am deeply offended by this book, and frankly a little horrified by how well-received it is. The author claims to have done a lot of research, but all I see is someone who has watched Big Love and plumbed the depths of her own prejudice.
Murdering defective infants? Really? In the FLDS culture, "special" kids are considered too special to have come down from heaven completely, and are treasured. (It is true that other forms of handicap are looked down upon: blindness, paralysis, etc.)
Perhaps Williams wanted to warn people away from polygamy, in case they were considering it. Or commend the people who leave, many of whom completely deserve commendation. But she minimizes the horrendous transition that polygamist members have to face to 'homesickness' and 'wardrobe changes.' This is absurd. For people who lose faith in a religion, any religion, nervous breakdowns are common, as are suicide and other forms of escape.
Williams also portrays a world in which there are resources and volunteers standing at the ready to help those who leave. This is not the case. Many, many boys who leave or are driven out live out their short lives homeless, alcohol and drug addicted, and convinced that they are doomed to hell when they die. Why? Because people are quick to shake the finger at polygamist compounds, quick to read salacious news reports about 'those people', and VERY slow to actually help.
Why this gets my blood up:
I've known a polygamist boy, who was a true believer, at least when I first met him. When people found out who and what he was, they singled him out to torment him, belittle him. He put a bullet in his head that same year.
Books like this one feed that prejudice.
Why are we supposed to like the main characters: Kyra and Joshua? Because they Never Truly Believed. They are 'like us,' they are who WE would have been, had WE been raised in an FLDS community. WE would never have loved a church like that, even if it was the church that raised us, the place where we found God.
I'm not really sure how I feel about her fictional "Chosen Ones" being an offshoot of mainstream Christianity, rather than Mormonism. It's like the author is trying to say "Look, even you normal believers could have weird backwoods spiritual cousins" and I-- sort of-- appreciate that.
But part of me senses in it the tired old LDS attempts to distance themselves from their polygamist past. (Even in the author interview at the end she only refers to the people she researched as "polygamists," not as what they call themselves: The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.) The average LDS member that I have encountered is colossally ignorant about polygamy, and I have talked to more than one who insisted that Mormons never practiced it and only anti-Mormon propaganda says otherwise.
Now, there HAVE been a wide variety of Christian and pseudo-Christian denominations that practice a wide variety of sexual abnormality, including groups where everyone was married to everyone else. But Mormonism is the only religion to ever REQUIRE polygamy, and Williams' "Chosen Ones" are obviously fictional derivations of the FLDS. (Examples: a tall, thin prophet, son of the last prophet, the necessity of three wives, the references to blood atonement, the family name "Allred.")
This will offend many but here it is: people belonging to the FLDS are not stupid, or crazy, or any less in-love with their church than the mainstream Mormons, or mainstream Christians. Families have spiritual visions of who they are to marry (and marry, and marry), they, too, witness miracles and feel the presence of God when they pray and sing. And they practice a form of Mormonism that is far, far closer to what Brigham Young taught than anything you will find from the nice boys who show up in pairs at your door, especially since Mormonism has changed so much in recent decades.
Minor notes: why is it that every time Kyra's library is mentioned, it is referred to by its full name: "The Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels"? The fact that she never even thinks of it as "the library" reeks of "replace all."
How did Kyra even know what a library was? The boy I knew was nearly twenty, and he had never seen a library before; how could he have?
Also, Williams' polygamist cult is stupid. The FLDS has taken the precaution to never explain sex at all to its followers, and boys are informed they can get a girl pregnant by looking at them.
There are some pretty major flaws in the experiments he lists as "proof" of his points.
-Deciding whether a person has a "good" or "bad" sense of humorThere are some pretty major flaws in the experiments he lists as "proof" of his points.
-Deciding whether a person has a "good" or "bad" sense of humor-- based on whether their ratings of jokes correlates with 30 professional comedians? Seriously? Isn't it obvious that the people who score "poorly" are just the kind of people who don't go to comedy clubs, or find the dumb jokes on TV funny?
-There ARE a variety of ways a chess player can be underscored in the ratings. (Although, it is true that 100 points worth of overconfidence is a wide disparity.)
Overall, though, it's a fun refutation of Malcolm Gladwell, and a good overview of logical thought....more
Because of the title, I kept waiting for the mother to die. I still can't understand why she didn't die with a title like this one. So not-a-spoiler:Because of the title, I kept waiting for the mother to die. I still can't understand why she didn't die with a title like this one. So not-a-spoiler: she doesn't die.
This book is second only to Elie Wiesel's "Night" as the hungriest book I have ever read. Not mouthwatering fantasy/ethnic books that insist on describing every meal in great detail to give "atmosphere." This is more raw, more desperate, more animal. An endless, relentless search for food runs in a heartbreaking undercurrent. The way each windfall, each lucky bit of butter or jam is burned into his memory for life, the taste of it to be praised before his children's children, the sudden flare of hatred for those who had just a little more-- and would not share.
The other wonderful thing about this book is the way it gives a very vivid portrayal of a child's worldview. I don't think I've ever seen a better description of an adult writing a child's point of view....more
Why does no one in this book eat only ONE sandwich?
In the long catalog of herring and kefir, multiplThroughout, I was haunted by a niggling question:
Why does no one in this book eat only ONE sandwich?
In the long catalog of herring and kefir, multiple sandwiches seems the rule of the day. Is their bread smaller? How many extra calories does it take to run a human body in Swedish winters?
Also, apparently there is a statute of limitations on murder in Sweden. Something to bear in mind. Just in case.
A couple (but by no means all!) of the twists were sadly predictable, but overall a compelling page-turner. Kept me up. It loses a star, though, for graphic sex horribleness. That just keeps going. I don't think I'll watch the movie, even though Netflix tells me I'll like it, because I have an active desire to never see-- well, a couple of the scenes....more
So heavily slanted in favor of Native Americans as to be somewhat propagandistic. Also, there are many, many people introduced (all with unfamiliar-soSo heavily slanted in favor of Native Americans as to be somewhat propagandistic. Also, there are many, many people introduced (all with unfamiliar-sounding names) which gets a bit confusing. Not a good audio read, since major events happen in just a few sentences after a great deal of buildup, and there are some sections that skip around.
Nonetheless, it well-deserves to be considered the quintessential Native American history book. Essential reading for the historian.
Very interesting premise, with two mysteries woven together across a century. But the contemporary one seemed a bit thin, and a bit heavy-handed withVery interesting premise, with two mysteries woven together across a century. But the contemporary one seemed a bit thin, and a bit heavy-handed with its hope for liberal faith. Also, the last quarter of the book introduced a couple of long-winded characters who did little for the plot development....more
I was really quite disappointed in this one. The movie was completely spellbinding, and I've loved some of McEwan's other work, so I had high expectatI was really quite disappointed in this one. The movie was completely spellbinding, and I've loved some of McEwan's other work, so I had high expectations, but I felt that the prose here did not do justice to the rich visual metaphors that the movie made me expect.
I hated all the characters in the first part-- each one a unique flavor of self-important, bourgeois boredom-- and Briony's crime was a great deal less understandable. Parts of the second part were pretty nauseating (doubtless, the desired effect.) And the third part, Briony's atonement, felt insipid somehow. It felt less like a pitiable attempt to make amends for what could never be righted, and more of the coward shirking reality.
I think this is more or less how I was Supposed to feel. Realism in all it's starkness. But I just wasn't drawn in by the prose enough to make me enjoy the experience. Nevertheless, I was left with the feeling that something very smart had happened on this page, and I'd be interested in seeing the themes dissected, and having the brilliance explained to me....more
I read this as a child and, looking back, I doubt I really got it.
ETA: Listened to an audio version of this, and I realize why it's so hard to find anI read this as a child and, looking back, I doubt I really got it.
ETA: Listened to an audio version of this, and I realize why it's so hard to find an audio version. It's a picture book. I'd forgotten that, but there are illustrations in the book that are essential to the story.
Understood it much better, though, and liked it much more. Returning to these "not-children's stories" as an adult, makes them much clearer.