Expecting Adam was not at all what I was expecting. Thinking this month's book club selection was a memoir of the emotional journey of a mother who le...moreExpecting Adam was not at all what I was expecting. Thinking this month's book club selection was a memoir of the emotional journey of a mother who learns the baby she is carrying has Downs' Syndrome, I eagerly began reading.
What followed was Martha Beck's account of supernatural experiences during and after her pregnancy. She describes out of body experiences, transporting her across the globe, and numerous encounters with beings whom she describes at times as bankuru puppeteers, angels, and as her unborn son.
Beck clings to the truth of her personal experiences, but resists ascribing any part of her own beliefs to her upbringing or religious affiliation or academic background. She seems especially determined to reinvent herself apart from her religion, and this makes her writing unwieldy at times as she attempts to describe her religious feelings and spiritual experiences without referencing her faith or beliefs.(less)
A slender collection, Wendell Berry's Fidelity offers five short stories of life in rural Kentucky. Arranged chronologically, each episode explores a...moreA slender collection, Wendell Berry's Fidelity offers five short stories of life in rural Kentucky. Arranged chronologically, each episode explores a different facet of human relationships while depicting the progression of time on the rural community itself. Interweaving his characters throughout each others' stories enhances Berry's portrait of a small, but strong, interdependent community.(less)
Entertaining and enjoyable and very, very nice. Nice as in nice, not precise, which Gaiman and Pratchett keep telling the reader is the original meani...moreEntertaining and enjoyable and very, very nice. Nice as in nice, not precise, which Gaiman and Pratchett keep telling the reader is the original meaning of the word. That, to me, was the longest running joke in the book, but I will say no more for fear of spoiling someone else's fun.
Lisa Genova gives us excellent insight into the deteriorating mind of someone with Alzheimer's Disease. She combines the latest research findings with...moreLisa Genova gives us excellent insight into the deteriorating mind of someone with Alzheimer's Disease. She combines the latest research findings with the story of one woman, and her family, dealing with early onset of the disease. Strongest when she slips into the first person voice of Alice, a 50 year old psychology professor at Harvard, Genova captures the fear and confusion, as well as the rapid pace of the disease. At what point, she asks, does Alice cease to be herself?
I wish the novel had been written entirely in the first person. However, Genova writes also to inform her reader about the latest (at the time it was written) research and treatment options. So Alice's husband, a biologist, has pointed conversations with her neurologist about what causes the disease, as well as both conventional and experimental treatments. I feel this will date the book in a few years. At least, I hope it will, as our understanding of Alzheimer's grows. Although informative, these read as interruptions to the narrative, and could have been included as an appendix rather than inserted into the novel. I would have preferred to hear more of Alice's own voice. (less)
Malcolm Gladwell challenges our concept of the born-genuis and the self-made man. He shows us that nobody rises to the top of their field unless they...moreMalcolm Gladwell challenges our concept of the born-genuis and the self-made man. He shows us that nobody rises to the top of their field unless they are helped along the way - by others, by timing, by opportunity, by cultural legacy, and by many, many hours of hard work.
In looking at the combination of factors that leads to success, he argues for creating those conditions for more people. No, we can't predict the timing of the next as-yet-unknown revolution. We cannot replicate the peculiar conditions which have led to past success.
We could, however, prepare more of our children to grasp hold of opportunities and succeed with improved educational methods, by extending the school year, by not relying so heavily on testing in the early grades, and by letting go of the notion that some people just aren't naturally good at math, reading, etc. Imagine less emphasis on self esteem and more on working hard and not giving up. Imagine that every child is capable; some just need more time to learn.(less)
Were it not for my book club, I'd never have picked up this book. I prefer non-fiction to historical fiction. It is distracting to me to be wondering,...moreWere it not for my book club, I'd never have picked up this book. I prefer non-fiction to historical fiction. It is distracting to me to be wondering, "How do you know she thought that or said this?" However, I had heard so many good things about The Paris Wife that I set aside my reservations and tried my best to just enjoy the book as a work of fiction, and not think of Hadley or Ernest as real people.
That made it worse. Written as a first person narrative, McLain's Hadley never caught my interest. She neither garnered my sympathy nor excited my curiosity. She was too removed even from her own story for that. She lacked passion. She lacked depth. I thought more than once that she seemed to be sleepwalking through her own story.
I wanted to toss the book aside, but, for book club, I rewarded myself with PBcups for continuing to read it. That is sad. Delicious, but sad. Unlike the book, which was neither delicious nor sad. Just blah.(less)
I read this as a teen, but remembered little enough of it that it was almost new to me this time around. New, and yet familiar, so many of Huxley's th...moreI read this as a teen, but remembered little enough of it that it was almost new to me this time around. New, and yet familiar, so many of Huxley's themes and ideas have been repeated and reused by later writers, both of page and film. So what is left to be said about a book considered to be a modern classic?
Mostly, it deserves the title. It is worth reading and discussing, which is what I'll be doing on Thursday, when my book club meets. I've even prepared discussion questions to keep us on topic.
Huxley, writing in 1931, may not have accurately predicted the science (still living life without our personal helicopters), but much of his New World reminds us of our own. The idolization of happiness and the means used to attain it which fall so short that no one is truly happy; the awareness that one is accepting societal norms that do not satisfy, combined with an inability to totally reject them; numbing ourselves to pains neither we nor society can cure - these we see all around us, everyday.
This discourse, between Mustapha and John will, I hope, stay with me:
J: "If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn't allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices. You'd have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage"....
M: ...."There isn't any need for a civilized man to bear anything that's seriously unpleasant"....
J: "But God's the reason for everything noble and fine and heroic. If you had a God..."
M: "My dear young friend, civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism." ..... "Christianity without tears, that's what soma is."
J: "But the tears are necessary."
............ M: "We prefer to do things comfortably."
J: "I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin."
M: "In fact...you are claiming the right to be unhappy."
J: "All right then, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."
I claim it, too, because the tears really are necessary.(less)
This book is a 600+ page preface to a story that only begins to unfold in the last 200 pages. Excruciatingly slow. I do not mind books that are low on...moreThis book is a 600+ page preface to a story that only begins to unfold in the last 200 pages. Excruciatingly slow. I do not mind books that are low on plot, but they need to compensate by presenting characters whose complexity increases as the book unfolds. A well drawn character will draw me like a cat to tuna, but Martin's saga is soap opera bland.
Game of Thrones crawled along, each chapter named for the character who carries that bit of narrative. Usually, this is a device I like, especially when told in first person. I like differing perspectives on events, enjoy seeing characters through each others' eyes. That is not what happens here. Here, we get scene changes, most of which follow the same storyline.
(The one that is most distant from the others I found the most interesting, but I am uncertain whether that is because it is better written or because I just needed a break from the very slow pace of the main storyline.)
Also, like a soap opera, the characters are much slower than the viewer/reader. Frustratingly slower. You know that happy feeling of figuring something out a chapter ahead of the characters? Then realizing the author deliberately misled you, and figuring it out anew? Not in this book. In this book, you are desperate for the nice guy to realize he is being played because it is painful to read hundreds of pages of cluelessness. You know who will die, and you wish it would happen sooner because you just want something, anything to happen because how much preface can you bear???
I know this book has a huge fan base, which I am certain will grow with the current HBO series, but I won't be reading the other books. I have only question that I care about, and I googled it. Four books written and it has not been answered yet. (less)
I always wait until the last week to read the selections for my book group, so they'll be fresh in my mind. That means I often hear a bit about the bo...moreI always wait until the last week to read the selections for my book group, so they'll be fresh in my mind. That means I often hear a bit about the books before I read them. The words that I was hearing about Olive were ones like "sad" and "depressing." After reading it, though, I came to a different conclusion. I think it may be due to age.
If I were young, I think I would have found these interwoven tales sad myself. They certainly are not happy stories of lives full of promise, love fulfilled, relationships healed. No. They tell the stories of mostly older people, middle aged and elderly, who have loved imperfectly, sometimes quite badly, who have been hurt and who have hurt. No marriage was perfect. No parent without fault. No one ever quite overcame their past. Never. Yet, they loved. They reached out to help those who needed it. They were bruised, but not beaten, not hardened against each other. Not unwilling to love.
I think, to the young, that sounds just awful, like giving up, like settling for less. I think with age, we recognize that our love is not perfect, and choosing it anyway is not settling for less, it is acknowledging our humanity and forgiving each other for it. The hardships, both those we inflict and those inflicted upon us, can make us retreat from people or can create compassion for others in their sufferings. Love need not diminish. It does, sometimes, but it need not. That, for me, is not depressing.
If it were not for my book club, I would not have read this book. What little I'd heard about it did not appeal to me as a reader. Fortunately, everyo...moreIf it were not for my book club, I would not have read this book. What little I'd heard about it did not appeal to me as a reader. Fortunately, everyone assured me I could read it in an easy afternoon, which was true.
Chua's account of her "Chinese Parenting" confirmed what I have long believed: high pressure parenting works if you have children that, like their parents, are high achievers and highly capable. No amount of parental pressure is going to result in musical prodigies if your child is tone-deaf or straight A's if your child does not have the basic intellectual ability to achieve them.
Chua's first daughter, Sophia, was an admittedly easy child, eager to please, diligent, and talented. So, of course, Chua felt like a super mom. Her second daughter, Lulu, whom she describes as being rebellious and independent, nonetheless, has the same high achieving personality.
Throughout the book, the inescapable conclusion is the one reached by Lulu, that everything is all about her mom. Every thing she claims to do for her children, is done for her own sense of pride and superiority. She insults her own children to prompt them to work harder, and she insults everyone who parented differently from her. Anyone who does less than her is lazy, a "bad family." Her daughters are bad if they are not completely compliant and respectful, especially in public.
Yet, Chua herself ignores her own parents when they implore her to reduce the pressure she places on Lulu. She insults her own parents, saying they have become too westernized. The irony seems to escape her. Her own pride and eagerness to be lauded for the results of her parenting - quantifiable results - is more important than any relationship.
I wish more had been written about her own parents. Not just how they parented her, but how they parented their other daughters. Passing mention is made that their fourth daughter had mental retardation, and that Amy (the oldest) spent a lot of time raising her third sister, because their mom was busy with the youngest. I would have liked to know more about her mom, who seemed to be able to adapt her parenting to her different children. I wonder why Amy did not see that.
In the end, Chua feels humbled because she does not get the results she wanted with Lulu. She must adapt, but does so only because she cannot win and knows it.
Although she is extreme, I don't disagree with her notion of expecting the best from one's children. I do disagree with her tactics. Mostly, though, I found it rather sad that she needed so much external proof of her own value as a person. I wonder if that, too, is the product of "Chinese Parenting." Is it not enough to have children that love you, desire to spend time with, want to share their lives with you? Do they have to be outperforming their peers in every way so that other parents will admire you and envy you? (less)
I alternated reading and listening to this. I expected to enjoy it more than I did, having loved The Count of Monte Cristo. It has two distinct parts,...moreI alternated reading and listening to this. I expected to enjoy it more than I did, having loved The Count of Monte Cristo. It has two distinct parts, the first, being primarily about D'Artagnan, delights with comedy. Dumas is very sly, making constant jests about the morals and character of the time. Had the entire book followed this pattern, I'd have liked it more.
The second part focuses on the infamous Lady de Winter, and that was melodrama, made painful by the awful rendition of female voice by the narrator. Chapter upon chapter of her seduction of Felton were excruciating. I think I would have been better off reading that portion.
Overall, though, I did enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to discussing it at book club this month. (less)
I was the only one in my book club to finish this book. I found the theme interesting, compelling even, displaced persons, those living in an alien cu...moreI was the only one in my book club to finish this book. I found the theme interesting, compelling even, displaced persons, those living in an alien culture, for a variety of reasons. However, none of the characters were particularly likable, so it was hard to invest myself in them. I wanted to like it more than I did.(less)