Apparently this author gave a wonderful interview on NPR about her book, leading my friend to choose it for book club. BDifficulty Discerning the Tone
Apparently this author gave a wonderful interview on NPR about her book, leading my friend to choose it for book club. But I had difficulty understanding the author's message, and I didn't find a cohesive story that kept me turning the pages. So this ended up a DNF for me.
Kenya is a girl growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s. She feels like an outsider at school due to her family celebrating Kwanzaa instead of Christmas. Her only friend allays her fear of her parents divorcing by making Kenya kiss her. Kenya doesn't like these kisses but doesn't necessarily object. Then the fear of her parents divorcing hits Kenya as well.
The most interesting and disturbing character is Kenya's father, Johnbrown. He wants to murder white people to retaliate for slavery and racism. For realz? I scratched my head trying to figure out if the author was celebrating this point of view, or showing the downside of having such hate in one's heart. I guess neither extreme was the author's intent? I don't really know what the point of this story is.
Johnbrown doesn't support the family financially, and at times mistreats Kenya and her mother. Johnbrown's mother sums up her son best:
"I guess I just wonder when he will take responsibility for his life. He's so stuck in the business about being black, like he's the first person to have that problem. I wonder when he will do right by the both of you."
When Kenya shoots her mother while sleepwalking, and then the narrative brushes aside that incident as meaningless, I had enough. My struggle with the tone of the book made me put it aside....more
This story about two young women and a rich man in 1930s New York City was my book club's selection for Februar1930s Romance Usurped by Christian Grey
This story about two young women and a rich man in 1930s New York City was my book club's selection for February of 2015. I started reading this story, and it was well written but slightly dull. The characters didn't grab me.
What else happened in February of 2015? The Fifty Shades of Grey movie! I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey again to bone up (hehe) on the story before seeing the movie -- now THAT has some compelling characters. Christian Grey definitely holds my attention. Say what you want about the writing style and perhaps I have poor taste, but I ended up binge reading all three Fifty books and didn't return to this book. It's all about the characterization for me.
So I'm not sure how this book ends but maybe you'll like it more than me, and maybe you'll have better timing in book selection too....more
I read only one third of this novel, so take my review for what it's worth.
Wally Lamb is certainly a masExcellent Character Development, Plodding Plot
I read only one third of this novel, so take my review for what it's worth.
Wally Lamb is certainly a master at creating characters with depth -- male and female. The heroine from She's Come Undone was so rich and layered that I felt like I was reading about one of my psychotherapy clients. (And I didn't love that book because it felt too much like a day at work.) I Know This Much Is True was a fascinating exploration of mental illness in twin brothers.
We Are Water starts off interesting enough. Quirky artist Anna has divorced her husband Orion and is preparing to wed gallery owner Viveca. Anna and Orion's adult children have varied reactions to their mother marrying another woman. The author explores how each of these characters deals with such upheaval, and he really leaves no stone unturned. These characters muse and introspect for hours about the past, present, and future. While the characters are unique and interesting, they didn't seem very likable to me. I found myself skipping ahead to see when the chapter would end, which isn't a good sign about my absorption in the plot.
I did enjoy Orion's profession as a therapist at a university counseling center--it's a job I've done in the past and it is difficult to take care of yourself amidst the pressing needs of the student body. I also enjoyed the exploration of bisexuality in Anna's life.
Some book clubbers finished the novel and said it was worth the read, but I chose to put this one down and turn to more compelling reads for me. If you enjoy in-depth psychological family stories, you might want to check this one out....more
This one didn't click for me. I didn't connect with the characters, nor did I feel much chemistry between them. Maybe I'll pick it up later but I'm abThis one didn't click for me. I didn't connect with the characters, nor did I feel much chemistry between them. Maybe I'll pick it up later but I'm abandoning it halfway for now....more
My book club chose this novel. I read about half of the book before a fantasy/allegorical element entered the story, and that's when I stopped readingMy book club chose this novel. I read about half of the book before a fantasy/allegorical element entered the story, and that's when I stopped reading. The writing was good but fantasy is not my favorite genre....more
I wanted to like this book club selection but I found it too depressing and boring to finish. Here are a few comments from what I did read.
Mattie RydeI wanted to like this book club selection but I found it too depressing and boring to finish. Here are a few comments from what I did read.
Mattie Ryder is recently divorced with two young children. Somehow she makes a living from modeling size 12 clothing for Sears? She's depressed from her divorce, and ruminates about her family, her children, and her friends. She sleepwalks through life, and the story plods along without much happening. When she finds a little blue shoe her father owned, the object becomes a small symbol of hope for her, bringing her comfort in her down time.
I did enjoy the symbolism of the shoe. Here Maddie reflects:
She'd read somewhere that after World War II ended in Europe, lost children wandered around until they were gathered in campus run by the Allies. There they were fed and cared for while relatives were located or new families found who could take them in. In one camp it was discovered that none of the children was sleeping well. Their nerves were shot, the memories fresh and haunting. Then a social worker determined that if the children were each given a piece of bread to hold at night, they could fall asleep. This was not bread to eat--there was plenty of that when the children were hungry. No, this piece of bread was just to hold on to, to reassure the children through the night that they were safe now, that there would be bread to eat in the morning.
That is a precious story backed by object relations theory. As a psychologist, I sometimes give my clients stuffed animals or other objects to hang onto and to remember our work together, to help remind them of coping skills.
I also liked Angela, Mattie's blunt friend:
"Honey," Angela replied, "you don't know yourself well enough right now to commit suicide. So it would be considered a homicide."
But overall I didn't care much for the plot or the characters. Mattie isn't very likable, nor is her attraction to a married man named Lewis. The physical description of Lewis was hardly appealing to me. Too bad this one wasn't for me!...more
Though I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (myThough I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (my preferred genre) to read!
If you love crime novels set in the 1940's/1950's Los Angeles, this will be more up your alley....more
While I've heard good things about this story, I only read about one-fifth of the novel before deciding it's not for me. I prefer a tighterNot For Me
While I've heard good things about this story, I only read about one-fifth of the novel before deciding it's not for me. I prefer a tighter writing style with more creativity and less repetition. I knew exactly where the plot headed, and the characterization seemed cliche.
The last straw was at the music fair when Kellan gave the stuffed animal he won to the little girl who dropped her ice cream cone. *rolls eyes* I get that he is a kind person--I don't need to be knocked over the head with that obvious ploy.
If the book wasn't 500+ pages, I might have continued, but my difficulties with the story combined with the length made me decide not to finish. If you give it a try, I hope you enjoy it more than I did!...more
I read the first third of this before I had to return it to the library. It was well-written, and the madcap revenge fantasies coming to life were funI read the first third of this before I had to return it to the library. It was well-written, and the madcap revenge fantasies coming to life were fun, but I had a little trouble connecting to the characters. Perhaps I'm less into Young Adult stories than I used to be.
I do want to see the movie to find out what happens....more
This is a compelling, well-written story, but I abandoned it halfway through. Why? I grew suspicious the author was sneaking her political viewpoint iThis is a compelling, well-written story, but I abandoned it halfway through. Why? I grew suspicious the author was sneaking her political viewpoint into the narrative, and the reviews I read confirmed the politicizing would increase throughout the novel. I wanted no part of that.
Alice Lindgren is a character inspired by Laura Bush, and the story follows her relationship with a charming politico named Charlie Blackwell. I've heard George W. Bush freely gives out nicknames, and I liked when Charlie called Alice "Lindy". However, while I don't know the Bushes' history well, parts of the story seemed so far-fetched I seriously doubted their similarity to the Bush family. Is Barbara Bush really a cold bitch? Is George Bush so self-deprecating that he comes across as stupid? (Democrats can easily answer that question, ha ha.)
I did love the author's description of the Midwest:
The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills, that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place.
Ms. Sittenfeld perfectly captured the awe and excitement of buying one's first home. I laughed upon learning Charlie and his brothers called their mother "Maj", short for "Your Majesty."
This novel had much potential but the hint of duplicity--inserting liberal dogma into a story about conservative individuals--didn't provide me the motivation to wade through 558 pages. It seems many readers have enjoyed the story but ultimately it wasn't for me....more