My friends are sick and tired, I imagine, of hearing me go on and on about this book. Since I read the beginning of the Preface, I have been unable toMy friends are sick and tired, I imagine, of hearing me go on and on about this book. Since I read the beginning of the Preface, I have been unable to stop trying to get everyone to read it, and that continued while I savored every word. This was my first time reading D'Ambrosio, and I regret that I've not known his work until now. Better late than never.
A caveat is that I feel an enormous kindredness to him: suicide in our families, severe discomfort with rigid categorical thinking and a greater comfort with ambiguity and complexity as a way to get anywhere near the 'truth', and a pretty deep sense of being an outsider. When I read the preface, it felt like I was reading the words of a long-lost sibling who had been there with me through it and understood in a way no one else could. Since these are themes that circle through the collected essays, it's hard to me to know how they would strike me if they weren't so perfectly true and personal for me.
I enjoyed every essay in the collection, every one, but found myself most drawn to the ones with greater personal material. One thing I especially enjoyed each time was the way he found himself an ending to the piece. It was never a neat circle-closing ending, but it did end. I always felt the ending, but it wasn't complete in a neat and tidy way. I loved that.
Off to buy everything he's ever written. I'll be reading this one again and again and again....more
My rating for this book is a funny thing. I loved the first section SO MUCH, about Holly, and felt repeatedly like I crashed into a brick wall with thMy rating for this book is a funny thing. I loved the first section SO MUCH, about Holly, and felt repeatedly like I crashed into a brick wall with the new sections, having to start over trying to connect with the main character of the section. Once Holly finally appeared near the end of the second, I realized that she would be back. But nothing in the book ever captured me with the same hot thrill as that first section. The voice, the character, every moment of it I just loved.
And the murders in that first section were so creepy and eerie, combined with the sprinkled evidence of something else going on, that the book got into my dreams. My husband woke me up from a nightmare -- I was covered in goosebumps and crying out -- and it was very clearly that scene. I loved that too.
Crispin was another character/section I enjoyed tremendously, and his and Holly's relationship was charming and felt dear. Mitchell can definitely create vivid characters, and write a variety of voices. He's very clever in plotting.
I'll want to read the book again because I was so confused so much of the time. You can't casually read this book while you're doing other things, or when you're exhausted. It requires attention and focus, but it's worth it. ...more
**spoiler alert** There were parts of this book that I enjoyed very much, and the general idea was great -- that people have very different inner live**spoiler alert** There were parts of this book that I enjoyed very much, and the general idea was great -- that people have very different inner lives (and even 'real' lives) than you may ever know. As a mother of grown kids, it has been surprising to learn many things that were important aspects of my kids' lives when they were littler, and I just had no clue. No clue at all. The general idea that longings echo and bounce around from generation to generation was very interesting, and well-done (although kind of hit a bit too hard, I think): one person's mother pushes her for this, so in response she pushes her own children for the opposite. This happens, and it was a great concept for this book.
But there were too many bits that didn't feel realistic, but like they were smooshed around by the author to make the story work as she wanted it to work. Too many things that were too on-point like a television show (for example, guess what.....bad boy Jack is really gay! And has a crush on Nath! Shocker!).
Of course it's her first book and that's amazing, and I'll look forward to her next book -- but won't ever re-read this one....more
This book has been strongly recommended to me for years. Everyone who recommends it looks at me with some urgency and says how beautiful it is, and hoThis book has been strongly recommended to me for years. Everyone who recommends it looks at me with some urgency and says how beautiful it is, and how I especially will love it. I’ll say these two positive things: I learned so much about Ethiopia, that part was great, and about medicine, also great. But the story and especially the writing left me extremely cold. There are sentences that describe (scenery, characters, etc), sentences that advance plot, there is dialogue, and then there are what I call insight sentences, where the writer goes beyond plot and reaches out to articulate an insight of some kind. These are often my favorite sentences in books, the ones I highlight (though description can also be exceptional of course). The insight sentences in this book were just terrible. Too often they were simply false, or even flat wrong. They didn’t feel honest at all, they felt like the writer was trying to pull it off but he wasn’t touching truth in any way. Like he didn’t realize he was writing lies.
I was sorely disappointed, especially since people recommend it so highly. I did very much enjoy the parts about Ethiopia, and will remember those parts for a long time. ...more
This book made me want to read a biography of Artemesia Gentileschi. She was an interesting woman, and I love one of her Judith paintings quite a bit.This book made me want to read a biography of Artemesia Gentileschi. She was an interesting woman, and I love one of her Judith paintings quite a bit. I enjoyed reading this book, which felt to me like a beautifully decorated box of chocolates——baroquely decorated, and the chocolates too, gilt-edged. Candy. I got the feeling the author wanted to make the prose like a Renaissance painting, and it became cloying a bit too often for my taste. It was fine, I enjoyed reading it well enough, and it left me wanting to know about her life (so that's good!), but it won't be one I remember....more
This beautiful book wrenched me, hard. Beautiful sentences for absolute horror, beautiful sentences for aftermath, beautiful sentences for before theThis beautiful book wrenched me, hard. Beautiful sentences for absolute horror, beautiful sentences for aftermath, beautiful sentences for before the horror. One chapter stopped me cold and I sat, on the airplane, big-sobbing, the kind that feels like it's about everything. This book sits on my absolute favorite shelf now.
It's silly to do any quibbling with something so big and wonderful, but here are my 'who cares, read it read it read it' quibbles. I didn't like the beginning and was more confused for a little too long than I like to be. And I thought the book had several endings, each one feeling like the close to the book. Who cares. I mention this in case you start reading and have my experience with the beginning, so I can say keep reading. What a book. ...more
What a fantastic book this was -- my only regret is that there aren't more like him in the healthcare system, at least yet. He's such an influential tWhat a fantastic book this was -- my only regret is that there aren't more like him in the healthcare system, at least yet. He's such an influential thinker, maybe this book will start a dialogue. I hope so. If you have parents who are still alive it's a great book to read, and if you think you might age and die someday it's a great book to read. I'm asking my daughters to read it. It's elegantly written, very easy to read, and very thought-provoking. I will probably re-read it a few more times. ...more
One of the deep, deep pleasures of reading Philip Roth is the joy of participating in his brilliant mind, his amazing use of language. It's been a whiOne of the deep, deep pleasures of reading Philip Roth is the joy of participating in his brilliant mind, his amazing use of language. It's been a while since I read a book that kept putting me in that space, the awareness of the very keen intelligence of the writer. So often, the sentences that left me in a bit of awe weren't necessarily those I would highlight for beautiful use of language; their power was in the absolutely perfect articulation of a truth, big or small.
This book is so consistently sexual that I kept thinking about whether I would recommend it to various friends, who might be offended by it. Of course the consistently sexual nature belongs to Sabbath so it belongs to the book, but if you don't like to read graphic sex scenes this might not be the Roth for you. Graphic sex scenes are often part of a Roth novel, but in this book they are the bricks in the wall, and the rest is mortar. But they're part and parcel of the character, and more than just salacious attention-grabbers. They are Sabbath's life urge, the pulse of his power.
At times I was offended by him, but most of the time I felt deep compassion for him, even as he played the fool and just kept doing things that offended people. He couldn't seem to help himself, and indeed that's how he understood himself. The ending landed lightly, and was perfect, and I don't often feel that way about Roth's endings.
Very good book. It will stay with me, Sabbath will stay with me, gorgeous Drenka -- one of Roth's few powerfully strong female characters -- will stay with me....more
This story of a family and community enduring a series of dreadful losses is often beautifully written. The characters -- especially Frank and Jake, tThis story of a family and community enduring a series of dreadful losses is often beautifully written. The characters -- especially Frank and Jake, the two young boys in the family -- are round and real and dear. Krueger captured time and place so well I could hear the crickets and tree frogs at night, smell the air, feel its press on my skin. I enjoyed reading it, and felt happy anticipation when I had a chance to return to reading it.
I was not at all surprised by the way the plot turned, ever. From the moment Ariel's pregnancy was revealed, I knew exactly who the father was and who killed her. I knew the red herrings were red herrings, even when they were first presented. But even so, I enjoyed reading the book because there was pleasure in inhabiting the story.
Will I remember this book, this story? Probably not. I very much enjoyed reading it and do not at all consider it time wasted, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it. I might not even remember that I read it if I see the book's title. For me that is an important marker, and why I rated the book with three stars, even though I took such pleasure in the reading. It was like a piece of really delicious chocolate cake (or whatever is your pleasure) -- yummy while it's in your mouth, but next year indistinguishable from other such pleasures....more
Such a beautiful, beautiful book of such horror and agony in WWII. Marie-Laure, a blind girl living in Paris and then Saint Malo, and Werner, an orphaSuch a beautiful, beautiful book of such horror and agony in WWII. Marie-Laure, a blind girl living in Paris and then Saint Malo, and Werner, an orphaned German boy with a specific keen intelligence, cross paths through the air across their young lives. Their characters, and those of the other characters -- Etienne, Madame, the Giant, von Rumpel -- were so fully realized I felt I knew them. When I first began reading I did not at all like the very short chapters, alternating between Marie-Laure and Werner, but as I got farther into the book that became something I liked a lot about it It kept the immediacy and tension of the stories and kept me seeing their lives as intertwined. When von Rumpel came into the mix and became part of the alternating, that felt right too.
One thing I really loved about it was the knife's edge that Doerr balanced on in portraying the horrors of the Nazi regime, both in large scale ways and in the immediate horrors, including the youth training school, against the life background of Werner and the Giant. Werner's future included a brief life and near-certain death in the coal mine, as an orphan. He was very smart, curious, scientific, with a specific intelligence for engineering/radio, and wanted to have a chance to explore that. When the chance came, he took it even though his sister Jutta saw what it was going to mean. If I were a very smart and curious orphan boy facing a short life in the coal mines, would I have said no to an opportunity such as he faced? I don't know. Knowing how it turned out makes the decision easy, but of course Werner only knew what he knew then. Doerr presents the story of the frog in slowly boiling water to make (a little too pointedly) the point -- once you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound and trapped. Once you've made these choices, the next set is easier, or perhaps made for you.
And when Werner is trapped for so long in the basement of the hotel and believing that his death is deserved, a kind of judgment, I liked that he was understanding that. It also helped balance him as a character, because he had been responsible for some truly horrific crimes.
Doerr also made the places come so alive I could smell the smoke, smell the musty dustiness of the rooms in Etienne's house. It's just a beautiful book in every way; exquisite storytelling, beautiful sentences, moving story, strong ending that did not leave me disappointed in any way.
My only real problem is that I can never remember the title of this book. Thank heavens I can remember the author's name....more
This was such a fun book to read! At first I was put off by the format, which consists almost entirely of emails and letters and other correspondenceThis was such a fun book to read! At first I was put off by the format, which consists almost entirely of emails and letters and other correspondence (and other print materials), with some interstitial material by one of the characters. Because it was our book club selection, I kept reading despite my irritation and before long I was enjoying the format. So if you have the same initial response, keep going! Perhaps the same thing will happen to you.
One thing I really enjoyed about the book is the way it insisted on making each and every character a full and round person, even those who seem to be nasty villainous-type people. I just loved that, because it's true and real. And I think that's one way the correspondence format works very well; we get to see the same incident from the perspectives of people on both sides, and we get to learn their reflections on the incident, which may be quite different than how they were presenting themselves.
I don't know if it's a book I'll remember always (I suspect I won't), and it's not one I will re-read, but it's a book that felt very worth the time I spent reading it, and I enjoyed my time with the book. That's a win....more
Anne Carson took all the words and did something with them that I've never seen before. I read in awe and wonder, and often laughed or had to stop andAnne Carson took all the words and did something with them that I've never seen before. I read in awe and wonder, and often laughed or had to stop and catch my breath. All I want to do here is write some of the dozens of passages I underlined, sentences, phrases, word pairs circled, starred, noted. The 'what' of this astonishing book is marvelous (other reviews or the blurb provide that), but it's the 'how' of it that is unlike anything else. There are echoes of her phrases bouncing around in my mind.
She hijacked my own speech too. Unusual word pairs came out of my mouth in the wake of reading it, and I'd think, "Oh Anne, there you are." The last book to get inside of me like this was Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.
After reading the first five pages, I ran out to my local independent bookstore and bought everything on the shelf that she's written. I'm trying to decide whether to read Red Doc> next or Glass, Irony and God, but either way I'm just not ready to leave the worlds she creates. This book belongs on my shortest list of favorite books....more
I'm a member of two reading groups. One group had already read this book before I joined, and for the other, this is the book we're reading this monthI'm a member of two reading groups. One group had already read this book before I joined, and for the other, this is the book we're reading this month. In the first group, people either really loved this book and were deeply moved OR they were bored and thought it wasn't very good. I fall somewhere in between.
The premise and conflict is a very interesting one. One couple, Tom and Isabel, finds a baby and keeps her and raises her with great love; the mother of the child, Hannah, grieves for her lost baby. Ultimately, the baby is returned to her original mother. Should that have happened? What should the consequences be for the couple who kept her? That's a compelling conflict.
One thing I enjoyed is that no one was presented as "bad." There were no villains. The couple who found and kept the baby made the wrong choice to do that, absolutely, but their reasons were heartfelt and desperate and made from their own grief and pain and loss. Wrong, but human and understandable. When Tom can no longer bear the guilt he sends two secret notes to Hannah letting her know that her baby is being taken care of with great love. Eventually these notes force the plot -- the baby is discovered, taken away, and returned to Hannah, and Tom goes to jail, taking all the responsibility (unfairly).
So the baby is torn apart. Solomon's choice. She cries and cries and just wants her mother, Isabel, and calls Hannah the bad lady. Of course! Who should do what now? That's an interesting question. For each mother, the decision about what's best for THE BABY is actually kind of obvious. She should stay with her real mother. She should return to the only mother she knows.
The reader is left to ponder these questions too, and no easy answers are provided by the story. I liked that. Who pays the consequences for the original bad choice, and what is a fair payment?
I didn't really like any of the characters, though I had the most respect for Tom. But I found it very hard to root for anyone, except the baby. Not sure that was an ideal situation as a reader. I loved the descriptions of Janus and the lighthouse, very vivid. I found the resolution of the book too much too fast and ultimately unsatisfying.
At the end of it, I probably won't remember (or re-read) the book, but I found pleasure in thinking about the questions it raised as I was reading it. There were some beautiful sentences throughout that I highlighted. I don't regret having read it. ...more