This just wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. From the title and the cover, I thought it was going to fall more on the whimsical, magical reThis just wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. From the title and the cover, I thought it was going to fall more on the whimsical, magical realism side of the spectrum, and it ended up being almost... cerebral? Definitely with more violence and plot confusion than I was looking for. It was a very interesting concept, and I liked the characters, but something about the execution was just too convoluted and the mechanics of the door were described somewhat vaguely and somewhat technically. (Perhaps if I hadn't also read The Fold this year, I wouldn't have felt that way.) This is also a good description of the rest of the book, where I felt like I knew both too much and too little. Despite a lot of good ideas and writing, this just seemed to take me forever, and I almost abandoned it. (Of course to be fair, part of that could be because the ARC formatting was such that I had to read in tiny print, which made it infinitely harder.) I'm glad I finished it, but I still have very mixed feelings. And questions - mostly "why?"
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
This was a really interesting story about growing up lesbian in the very religious Nigerian community. Okparanta's writing is lovely, and I loved IjeoThis was a really interesting story about growing up lesbian in the very religious Nigerian community. Okparanta's writing is lovely, and I loved Ijeoma as a character. I think what I found disappointing (if that's the right word) was that Ijeoma's life is bookended by the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967-1970 and Goodluck Jonathan's signing of the law that criminalized homosexuality in 2014. The former leaves Ijeoma fatherless and changes the course of her life, so it serves more as a plot device than anything else. The latter isn't even mentioned until the author's note, despite the fact that the epilogue takes place the same month the law was signed. Of course, this does serve to make the story much more personal, as Ijeoma's experiences as a lesbian are largely centered on her mother's reaction. She does have one horrific experience with the wider community, though it somehow felt a bit removed from reality.
A few other issues - as an Igbo with a Hausa friend, she doesn't experience the level of censure one would expect, particularly in the late '60s and early '70s. Or maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about - although characters do suggest that it is practically forbidden and then let the Hausa girl join the household anyway. Then there was the matter of Ijeoma's male childhood friend who reappears in her adult life and seems to undergo a dramatic shift in personality, some of which can be accounted for by circumstance but that didn't feel entirely natural to me. Cultural norms that are outside of my understanding could account for this, I suppose.
I sound terribly critical, I know, but I don't mean to. This was really a great coming of age / coming out story, one that would be of particular interest to gay Christians trying to reconcile their lives with the Bible. Ijeoma does a lot of thinking about the Bible and unpicks the verses traditionally used as weapons against gays, looking for their real meaning and trying to understand whether a loving God would condone such hate. Really my criticism is largely unwarranted, because I want this short novel to be something it's not - a larger historic picture of GLBT life in Nigeria. I guess I'm just irritated that my natural curiosity was piqued and not fully satisfied! Perhaps I just failed as a reader because I'm a straight, white, modern North American and wanted elaboration that a lesbian, or a Nigerian, or someone who came of ages in the '70s (or all three) wouldn't need.
So despite the 3-star rating, I really would strongly recommend this book to all kinds of readers.
(Oh, and after Okparanta's many mentions of the classic novel, I think I might need to go reread Things Fall Apart!)...more
Another perfect example of how not every book is meant for every person, despite appearances. This one got a starred review in Booklist. It had a neatAnother perfect example of how not every book is meant for every person, despite appearances. This one got a starred review in Booklist. It had a neat fantasy concept(without too much world-building for my taste), a circus, interesting social commentary, personal drama... It had a lot going for it, but it just didn't click for me. I'm not sure why. The writing wasn't bad (some have called it "lyrical," though that wouldn't be my word of choice). I think overall I just felt the characters felt flat to me one or two plot points felt forced. (view spoiler)[Namely, why would North be impregnated by a mysterious stranger (presumably a man) when very clear hints suggest a lesbian romance? (hide spoiler)] Subject matter aside, in some ways the writing reminded me of Neverhome--just a bit too forced for me to buy it. But that's me. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood. As other reviews have shown, obviously others will love it.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley.["br"]>["br"]>...more
How many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we alHow many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we all live judiciously ever after. That's not to say this (and the other books I've read by Picoult) weren't good, it's just that they're already feeling formulaic.
That being said and on the other hand, she does really bring some interesting issues to light and leave her reader with a lot of food for thought. In this case, the idea of who has the authority to make end-of-life decisions for a man in a coma, which was about as complicated as such a situation could get. The son had reached the age of majority and previously had a specific conversation about his father's end-of-life wishes, but they had since fallen out and not spoken for years. The daughter was a minor and hadn't had a specific conversation with him on the subject, but they'd lived alone together for years so she knew him best. Add to that the medical reality versus hope for survival, and you've got one complex situation. Oh yeah, and the stepfather is a lawyer who gets involved in the case too.
I was a bit frustrated because I related much more to one point of view than the other, perhaps partially because I found one of the siblings to be more sympathetic than the other. Of course, this could be a chicken/egg scenario where I was more sympathetic to said sibling because I related more to their point of view. Either way, it felt inevitable and not balanced to me. But I think that's the nature of the subject matter, and Picoult does a good job (in this and other books) with illustrating both sides as fairly as she can.
In an interesting twist, she made Luke, the coma patient, a sort of wolf-cultural anthropologist. He observes them, he lives among them, and he learns how their society works. Picoult obviously did a lot of research, and it gave her a great jumping off point to explore what it means to be wolf and what it means to be human. How much of the wild is in a human being? Is a wolf's way more natural? Are we the same or different? Which way is better?
So, as always, a thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining read from Picoult....more
I went back and forth on this one. I leaned more toward 3 stars, just because a lot of parts were just too vulgar or grim for me, but that's the naturI went back and forth on this one. I leaned more toward 3 stars, just because a lot of parts were just too vulgar or grim for me, but that's the nature of the people she was telling a story about so...
As usual, Donoghue did a brilliant job of weaving her tale together. The title is perfect because it works on many different levels, and teasing out those bits was a pleasure. Her writing was beautiful as always, and I spent a lot of time thinking about meanings and big ideas in between chapters, sort of like I did with Astray. The historical setting was well done, as was the mystery, as were the characterizations. I was a little hesitant about some forced-feeling GLBT issues, and I found it hard to like the cast of pimps and prostitutes, but I did really like Jenny Bonnet.
Bottom line, if you can get past the vulgarity, you have no choice but to appreciate another masterful work from Donoghue.
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss....more
Yet another book I would never have read except for my book club. I think I have to give it 4 stars because it's my favorite lesbian book of the onesYet another book I would never have read except for my book club. I think I have to give it 4 stars because it's my favorite lesbian book of the ones I've read. I liked the characters, I liked the various things going on in their lives, I liked the story. Sure it was simple, but it was sweet and a quick read. Of course given the choice I would pick a straight romance to read, but I don't think this one would have worked with a man involved and I enjoyed it for itself. However, it did make me want to pig out on some chocolate chip cookies!...more
So great, I teared up a lot. I loved Luke and Tessa's relationship. It was interesting to see both sides of Tessa's coming out and how it affected notSo great, I teared up a lot. I loved Luke and Tessa's relationship. It was interesting to see both sides of Tessa's coming out and how it affected not just her and her family but also her best friend. I could have used more about the impact on her not-quite-girlfriend, and that was one of the main reasons I couldn't quite give it 5 stars. (That and even though Tessa certainly struggled, something about the way the school board meeting and other big confrontations were written didn't quite capture the struggle for me.) Luke was a fascinating character, a baseball playing boy with a single mother who's watched too many chick flicks but undoubtedly has a good heart, even if he loses his way for awhile. Towards the end I was tearing up a lot. Not quite crying, but definitely had tears running down the face. So touching.
Now, I'm not gay myself, but I suppose you would call me an "ally" because I have many gay friends and their struggle is something close to my heart. I've never known someone before they came out, but I imagine that this book captured that feeling to an extent. Luke's feeling that Tessa betrayed him by lying, his effort to explain to people that she's still the same person, his struggle to find something to do to help Tessa through a difficult time. I don't know if it's because I'm coming to the book from a straight perspective, but on looking back it seems like Luke's viewpoint was more real. I did like Tessa's voice a lot, but at the same time it seemed like coming out was hard for her, but it didn't really have the level of emotional struggle that I would expect. Still, maybe it's because in the world of this story, Tessa seemed awfully focused on Luke. (Did I mention that I loved their relationship?)
I think this could be a good book for a gay teen. Like I said, I don't know how realistic it was, but at the same time I think that it gives an overwhelmingly hopeful perspective of coming out. Even though there is certainly a lot of opposition to Tessa, her best friend, king of grand statements, and other select members of the community are just SO supportive that the hate pales in comparison to all that love. It's definitely a feel good story by the end. As you can probably tell from the rest of my review, I really think this would be a good book for the straight friend of a gay teen who is unsure of how to react to the changed reality brought on by the revelation of the truth.
I really wanted to like this, but there was just too much man-hating and unexplained science and unremarked incest. I liked the premise and some of thI really wanted to like this, but there was just too much man-hating and unexplained science and unremarked incest. I liked the premise and some of the plot, but those other elements were just too much for me. The story had serious potential, with the traveling and the new planet and the new civilization, but alas, too much hair fetish and mentioning of Mother's "melons." Yeah....more
This was a nice story, which I enjoyed more after hearing several gay friends dissect it and share their opinions of it. That definitely made me appreThis was a nice story, which I enjoyed more after hearing several gay friends dissect it and share their opinions of it. That definitely made me appreciate it more than I did on the first reading, since I was coming from a much different perspective. My own first reaction was that the romance between two women meeting for the first time in a friend's cabin was too convenient, especially when one had never been with another woman before, but still I was happy they found each other. The socialization of all the women was definitely dated with the encounter games, but since it was set in 1978, I guess that wasn't too bad. It was just hard to relate to because I can't imagine anyone saying things like that to strangers and casual acquaintances in this day and age. One thing I did love about the book was that the descriptions around the area of Lake Tahoe were beautiful, and I especially wanted to be able to climb the ladder to that cabin loft and look out those windows.
All in all, it's a nice little book but just hard to appreciate as much if you're not gay and/or weren't a young adult in 1978....more