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 correspondence...moreThis 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.(less)
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 and...moreAnne 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.(less)
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 month...moreI'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. (less)
This beautiful, beautiful book is at the top of the best books I've read this year. Presented as journal entries of a woman's life in the AZ territori...moreThis beautiful, beautiful book is at the top of the best books I've read this year. Presented as journal entries of a woman's life in the AZ territories, beginning with the harrowing and deadly trip through Comanche country, it is so believable I had to keep reminding myself I wasn't actually reading diary entries. I thought her voice was absolutely appropriate and compelling, and I know those kinds of things did regularly happen so it was compelling eyewitness reading. I loved Sarah, her family, the too-fancy and snooty sister-in-law, and I loved the love story. The ending didn't leave me sobbing uncontrollably nor was I just 'devastated' as other readers felt. It felt all of a piece and expected, given the time and who the people were, and part of the landscape of lives then. I also felt like Sarah would find her way and continue to live her life with as much fullness as anyone could.
I adored the role of books and education in her life and understood her jealousy of her children's access to school, and that broke my heart a little bit for all the women who couldn't/didn't/still don't get the education they want.
It's a beautiful book, with characters who feel as real as people in your own family, and observations that frequently made me put the book down to think about. Hard to believe it's her first book; I'll be watching closely for her next.(less)