Loved this book. Reinforces that books can make a difference in the world while telling a beautiful, painful, and important story about the not-far-diLoved this book. Reinforces that books can make a difference in the world while telling a beautiful, painful, and important story about the not-far-distant past in this country. As a Southerner, I related to so much of this book - in places it was so familiar it hurt. This book is set in the early 60s and I grew up in North Carolina in the 80s. I was sometimes amazed at how much had changed in the intervening 20 years, but also deeply saddened by how much had stayed the same. I've heard people say that they found the dialect rough going, but I think it is easier if you have some familiarity with how it sounds so you can hear it in your head (as I could, easily). Minny was definitely my favorite character. Can't wait to see the movie!...more
I enjoyed the energy and tone of the first half of this book, but the sections after he graduates from magic school felt unfocused and seemed to drag.I enjoyed the energy and tone of the first half of this book, but the sections after he graduates from magic school felt unfocused and seemed to drag. The ending also seemed very abrupt and anticlimactic, but I will probably read the sequel if only to find out where he goes with it....more
Very thought-provoking. I wish there was an even more current edition because this was updated in 1996 from the 1960s and so the pricing information iVery thought-provoking. I wish there was an even more current edition because this was updated in 1996 from the 1960s and so the pricing information is long out of date again. I bet funeral costs have inflated astronomically in the last 15 years. The book's blurb hypes it as very funny, though I didn't find it so -mildly amusing in places, maybe. It is certainly very readable for a book about American funeral rites. I think the books value is in its ability to frankly discuss a topic that so many shy away from in a manner that ends up being terribly costly. Worth reading....more
To be fair, I was probably biased against this book from the start because it was tarred with the "chick-lit" brush, which for me is never a selling pTo be fair, I was probably biased against this book from the start because it was tarred with the "chick-lit" brush, which for me is never a selling point but rather the opposite. That having been said, I really did not care for this book. I often found the prose to be quite clunky, but for once the writing style was not my chief complaint with a title in the chick-lit genre. I could not find much, if any, sympathy for the protagonist. Not that I am saying that all protagonists have to be 100% likable, because protagonists with no flaws are of course patently uninteresting. There does need, however, to be some kernel of truth or relatability (though I hate that word) in order for you to care what happens to the protagonist or what emotional journey they take over the course of the book. This book's only real redeeming feature, for me, was its humor. I did find my self chuckling almost-out-loud a couple of times while reading it. That is pretty much the only reason I finished it; well, that, and to prove myself right about the end - I found myself, as I suspected I would be, annoyed afresh at the wildly unrealistic behavior of genre stock characters; outside of a chick-lit book, the boyfriend character could not possibly exist. Thumbs down, I'm afraid....more
Despite the two-star ranking, I did find parts of this book incredibly interesting regarding the formation of language and the intersection of languagDespite the two-star ranking, I did find parts of this book incredibly interesting regarding the formation of language and the intersection of language and culture. That said, parts of it were also very dry, academic and techno-babbly about linguistic theory. I think he forgot for the last 50 pages or so that he was writing a book for an audience that is not necessarily either versed or interested in the minutiae of the development of linguistic theory and field studies over the past three decades. When he does remember, though, it is often to provide an unfortunate and clunky metaphor for the concept he is trying to elucidate, so I generally would rather slog through the jargon-y prose than endure figurative language that your average six-year-old would wince to hear. Also, he basically glosses over his transition from his initial purpose of going to the Amazon as a Christian missionary to his eventual renunciation of all religious faiths with a couple of frustratingly vague paragraphs. Half of my interest in reading this came from the desire to hear about how he went from a missionary to a person with a 'non-theistic view of the world.' That's a pretty big leap, and while I understand wanting to keep certain things private, particularly as regards his family, I think if you are going to write a book like this, you need to be prepared to spill your guts a little bit more. Otherwise, you might as well keep it to yourself and stick to writing articles for academic journals. In case it isn't obvious, I was disappointed in this book - mostly because it had such potential to be utterly absorbing, but only achieved this for mere paragraphs at a time....more
This was undeniably compelling. I read it very quickly because I could never work out what was going to happen next, and that makes for what one mightThis was undeniably compelling. I read it very quickly because I could never work out what was going to happen next, and that makes for what one might at least call engaging reading. It is so bleak, though, that I certainly am not about to run out and read more of McCarthy's work. I am on some level glad to have read it, though I am more than anything disappointed that I missed the book club discussion for which I was meant to be reading it (conflict came up at rather the last minute). I think the main reason to have gotten through this book, which was a bit of an endurance test for someone of my rather squeamish temperament, would be to discuss the philosophical and ethical questions it raises with others and explore how their responses to (or engagement with) those questions compared to my own....more
Interesting if not exactly enjoyable read. Wish I could read it in the native Norwegian, as the translator talked rather extensively in the AfterwordInteresting if not exactly enjoyable read. Wish I could read it in the native Norwegian, as the translator talked rather extensively in the Afterword about the unique quality of the language that was fairly groundbreaking for the period. I appreciated it more as an informative plot point on a timeline of the literary movement in Western Europe from that period than as a piece of literature....more
I actually read this for the first time in college, for a postcolonial literature class. I think I appreciated it more, but understood it less, the seI actually read this for the first time in college, for a postcolonial literature class. I think I appreciated it more, but understood it less, the second time around. Which I'm sure makes no sense. I enjoy the spare lyricism of Coetzee's writing, but it made me wish I had my class notes handy from junior year. I'm sure I've got them somewhere . . . they might help me at least pretend to be articulate in this "review."
Very serious and hefty, though short, book. Not exactly your typical summer reading, but one should expect nothing less from the University of Chicago Young Alumni book club....more
I found this book very interesting, and timely - my book club actually chose this title for this month before all the stuff that has happened recentlyI found this book very interesting, and timely - my book club actually chose this title for this month before all the stuff that has happened recently with the FLDS group in Texas. Oddly prophetic selection. I actually didn't know much about the origin and history of the Mormon church, and this book provides ample background of the only major religion (fastest-growing in the US) founded in the era of the printing press. It was intriguing to see how this affected the development of Mormon doctrine. The other major focus of the book is the grisly murders of a 24-year-old woman and her 15-month-old daughter by two Fundamentalist Mormon brothers who claim to have killed the woman and child, their sister-in-law and niece, on God's orders. The author, in discussing this heinous act and the subsequent trial of the two brothers for it, raises the contentious and problematic question of where we draw the line between legitimate religious beliefs, and delusions symptomatic of mental illness.
The book takes a journalistic, rather than historiographic, approach to discussing how and why the murders occurred. A clear, discernible argument is never quite presented, although you can sort of piece one together with the information and evidence the author provides.
My two main complaints with this book are that it spends a lot of time with characters that seem more ancillary than crucial to the history of the church, which makes it a tad overlong, and that the author's stance on Mormonism and indeed organized religion in general is so clearly extremely negative from the outset. While I agree that many of the beliefs and practices of Mormonism, particularly among the various Fundamentalist sects, are very hard to reconcile with rational, modern scientific and critical thought, I wished he had presented it all more straightforwardly. I got the strong feeling, from about the second page of the introduction, that the author himself considers all organized religion and/or belief in any higher power to be irrational and borderline delusional. He writes about this topic with a distinct undertone that to an extent all religion is crazy, and all believers are some degree of cuckoo. Leaving that aside, however, I found it both disturbing and fascinating to learn more about the Mormon history, especially the schisms that created the Fundamentalist splinter groups and how the culture was created which seems so rife with the potential for exploitation and abuse. If you were ever interested in how groups like the one creating all the ruckus in Texas came to be, this book offers a compelling compilation of their shared history....more
This was a selection for book club that I was worried I wouldn't finish before the group meeting this Sunday. I read it in a day and a half because IThis was a selection for book club that I was worried I wouldn't finish before the group meeting this Sunday. I read it in a day and a half because I could not put it down. Haddon's writing style is lush, visual and inventive and his characters are deeply believable, flawed but earnest human beings. This novel is rich, sad, funny and engrossing - I recommend it....more
Great example of how people's reactions to the same event can vary so widely, both from person to person and within one person over the course of timeGreat example of how people's reactions to the same event can vary so widely, both from person to person and within one person over the course of time. A deeply sad novel with wonderfully rendered characters that makes you long for the heavy snow and deep hush of the Adirondacks, until the hush is proven to be made of muffled screams....more
This is a beautifully written, but to me very sad, novel. I've not read much American literature from this period, so it was interesting to gain someThis is a beautifully written, but to me very sad, novel. I've not read much American literature from this period, so it was interesting to gain some perspective on that world, and understand it a bit better. I think I appreciated the book technically, as a writer, much more than I enjoyed it emotionally as a reader. Wharton beautifully depicts the inner life of a woman who is trapped and doomed by the same social conventions from which she derives her own sense of identity....more