I should start by saying that I gave Push, by Sapphire, five stars on GoodReads. That said, I'm not sure I can say that I "liked" this book. It was hoI should start by saying that I gave Push, by Sapphire, five stars on GoodReads. That said, I'm not sure I can say that I "liked" this book. It was horrific, wonderful, tragic, redemptive, heinous, empowering, painful and joyous all wrapped up into one.
Push is the story of Precious, a 16 year old girl living in Harlem with her sexually and physically abusive mother. She is also visited, and raped, regularly by her father. As the story opens she is on the verge of having the second of two babies she will have by her father, Carl. Through her stream-of-consciousness writings in what we discover is her school journal, we find out about the things that have happened to her to make her life the miserable existence it is. We also get a window into her dreams and hopes for the future, and the redemptive power of love that comes from her teacher, Ms. Blue Rain.
This novel was made into a major motion picture, which anyone not living under a rock for the last year is sure to know already. I haven't seen the movie, and frankly after reading the book I'm not sure I will. Again, I gave this book five stars, but I'm not sure that I want to see the events of Precious' life played out in technicolor. It was enough to read about them. As I was reading I kept trying to imagine how they would put the horrific abuse that was visited upon Precious into an even remotely acceptable form for public viewing. But without the graphic nature of Precious' descriptions the story would not have been nearly as compelling or engrossing.
Precious is the most innocent, naive, streetwise character I have ever read. As a white, middle-class person, I cannot begin to know how much I take for granted that Precious had never even heard of, much less experienced for herself. She lives in Harlem, but she has never been to the rest of Manhattan. She never read a sentence, much less a book. She has never had a friend, never had a teacher who cared about her, never had a parent who cared about her. How the system didn't take her away from her mother when the first baby was born is astonishing...she readily admitted that her own father was the father of her baby.
Frankly, the sheer number of things that happened to Precious in her short life is the one problem I have with the plot of the book. I know that there are terrible things that happen to people all the time, unimaginable things, but all of them to one person? The book tackles incest, physical abuse, educational neglect, poverty, sexual assault, gay issues, HIV, homelessness...considering it is only a couple hundred pages long that it a lot to fit in, and after all while I did start to feel fatigued. But I suppose that was the point-how much more meaningful it is when Precious begins to overcome her obstacles knowing how many there are....more
**spoiler alert** It only took me three weeks, but I finally finished a book! So I guess you could say I was the wicked little monkey! I sure felt sup**spoiler alert** It only took me three weeks, but I finally finished a book! So I guess you could say I was the wicked little monkey! I sure felt supremely slackerish in the reading department. But the title of this post has more to do the the novel, Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff, than with my own lack of reading achievement in the month of September.
Bad Monkeys is the story of Jane Charlotte. Jane has been arrested for murder, and during her interrogation in the psych ward she reveals that she actually works for a super secret organization called Bad Monkeys, whose sole purpose is to track down and stop evildoers by any means necessary. If all else fails, it is Bad Monkeys' job to assassinate the evildoer. No one has heard of Bad Monkeys, who have the ability to track our every move. You know all of those rock posters you had on your wall as a teen-the eyes on the posters were actually spying on you. The books you read-the spines transit information to the organization. Even the money you spend tell them where you are and what you are doing. Trouble is, there is no way to verify Jane's story. Of course, she says that's because the organization can change any record, erase any tape, falsify any video-basically they can control everything we see and hear. So, is Jane really an agent of good in the form of a Bad Monkeys assassin, or is she delusional?
This book is quirky and well-paced and fun, despite the sometimes horrific content. I mean, Jane kills people who are evil-many of the characters are not exactly likeable. By the end I wanted Bad Monkeys to exist-though the Big Brother aspect of it was pretty frightening. And I wanted Jane to be good. Throughout the novel she struggles with her own evil, and in the end that seems to be the message Matt Ruff is trying to get across, at least in part. All of us have the capacity for good or evil, and it is our choices that determine whether we are on the side of right, or whether we are a bad monkey.
I realized after I finished Bad Monkeys that Ruff had written another novel that I found really quirky and fascinating, Set This House in Order. It ist he story of Andy Gage, the public face of a mind with multiple personalities. He is integrated enough to work designing virtual reality environments. At work he meets Penny, another multiple personality who needs Andy's help. The novel is engaging right from the start, and while I don't necessarily believe in the multiple personality disorder as a real condition, I do think that MPD as a mechanism for showing the multiple sides of our psyche and the conflicts they can create within us was pretty genius!...more