This is a wonderful story that explores the lives of two people living in the margins of society. Rachel Simon tells the story through four charactersThis is a wonderful story that explores the lives of two people living in the margins of society. Rachel Simon tells the story through four characters, giving depth to each of their personalities, emotions and diverging paths across a 40 year period. Lynnie is a selective mute woman who has intellectual and/or developmental delays. Her parents place her in The School for the Incurable and the Feebleminded when she is ten years old and there she lives out her life, surrounded by verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, appalling conditions and quiet desperation. Homan, also known as 'number 42' and 'Buddy', is a deaf African American man who is mistakenly put in the same 'school' because of his lack of language and inability to be understood. At the 'school', Lynnie and Homan find refuge in each other's company and fall in love. They risk everything one night in an attempt to escape. That same night, they are separated and spend the next 40 years trying to be reunited. The novel is beautiful on so many levels and it touches on some hot-topic issues, such as living conditions in institutions, self-determination for people with exceptional needs and their inequitable treatment in society. In each chapter, Simon convincingly uses different voices and grammatical features with each of her narrators and the reader easily moves from simple-minded Lynnie-talk to intellectual Martha-speak as the chapters roll on. The only down-side I found was that Homan's chapters dragged on and on, with him accomplishing very little. He could have played the pivotal role in getting back together with Lynnie but he seemed endlessly paralysed by his circumstances and suddenly 12 years would have passed! (view spoiler)[It seems unlikely, after having learned sign language, that he would pursue and complete a degree in engineering before bothering to search for Lynnie. (hide spoiler)] Another part that doesn't sit well with me is that Martha never told Julia the truth about her adoption. (view spoiler)[Martha and Pete had this great heart-to-heart, where he said that when Martha told him the truth about her and Julia, he knew that she trusted him. This would have been the perfect segue for Martha to tell Julia the truth and gain her trust. But no. Martha decided that Julia wasn't mature enough to learn the truth and then she passed away, leaving the truth and the trust in Pete's hands. He doesn't seem to have followed through, since Julia found the letters and keep-sake box by happen-stance 18 years later. (hide spoiler)] This whole section was very confusing and I believe it could have been told in a way that let Martha shine and allowed Julia to grow up with the knowledge of her mother. Overall I recommend it and I found it to be an easy, gripping read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is an absolute delight from the very beginning. The premise made me chuckle - an Englishman went out to post a letter and kept on walking -This book is an absolute delight from the very beginning. The premise made me chuckle - an Englishman went out to post a letter and kept on walking - but the novel is so much more than that. It deftly explores the clarity of mind that comes from a journey. It shows the strength and weakness of our will as we encounter obstacles along the way. It demonstrates the power of kindness and its lasting effects. But it also shows the mind's ability to forget important facts and details as time passes. I loved how his mind wandered and made connections between events that did not seem to be related. It showed that memory must be exercised so that we do not rely solely on the emotions that were once felt. As a long distance runner, I was able to make many connections to the thoughts, experiences and emotions that Harold felt during his long journey. Harold's need to keep his original goal and motivation in the forefront of his mind spoke directly to me. I admired his commitment to hold onto the possessions that he started with and to resist upgrading his equipment along the journey. When I had read about three quarters of the book, I had already labeled it as one of my favourites, but then an unforeseen event occurs which pushed this book over the top for me. Highly recommended! ...more
This was an enjoyable read, set in a time period that I love. It was also a forgettable read, in that I didn't feel connected to any of the charactersThis was an enjoyable read, set in a time period that I love. It was also a forgettable read, in that I didn't feel connected to any of the characters or their decisions. Moth's character transforms from slum child, to servant, to living-on-the-street, to whore-in-training, to circus vendor, to whore, to circus act. I am not satisfied with Moth's ending place. I was waiting for her to take command of her life and to make decisions which would steer her in a positive direction. But in the end, she passed up an opportunity to follow in Dr. Sadie's footsteps as a medical assistant and instead allowed others to make her up into a circus character and from there she was absorbed into circus life. The enjoyable parts were the descriptions of housing, clothing, and life in the late 1800s. McKay does well at bringing history to life. The slums and filthy streets of Moth's upbringing are vivid and she does well to show how little people have and how desperate they are to improve their quality of lives. Selling off your daughter seems almost feasible in order to escape the trap of poverty. Meanwhile, the window we have into the wealth of the rich reveals the incredible difference between the classes. We see Mrs. Wentworth changing her outfit four times during each day although she never leaves the house or entertains any visitors, partnered with Moth's one set of clothes that are used for sleeping as well as living. At the same time, McKay shows that the rich are often trapped in their lives and even in their homes in order to save face and maintain an appearance of travel and socializing. The whole book has a sidebar, written from the perspective of Dr. Sadie F, who has dedicated her life to the care of women in the slums. Her story seems to be an interesting one, but we are only given glimpses of it, mostly through the medical or historical commentary that she occasionally adds. I think her character would have been worth fleshing out....more
In kind of a formulaic way, Genova shows us the world of post-brain damage life. The first few chapters take you on a whirlwind trip through a week orIn kind of a formulaic way, Genova shows us the world of post-brain damage life. The first few chapters take you on a whirlwind trip through a week or two in Sarah's frenetic life. While holding down an executive vice-president of HR, high-brow, big money career which takes 80+ hours a week, Sarah spends the rest of her day convincing herself that she is doing an upstanding job as a wife and a mother to her three small children. The pace of this lifestyle forces you to speed through the first quarter of the book! It also foreshadows the pace of events that are soon to come. I was truly exhausted just reading about her sad excuse for a life that has 'everything' (including 2 mortgages in homes where she never spends any time). After her accident, her whole life comes to a grinding halt and she has to come to terms with different kinds of challenges, such as putting on socks or remembering to eat all the food on her plate - and tolerating her estranged mother's help. I was worried about 2/3 through that her marriage would fall apart - but this book is eternally optimistic and shows the daily growth that Sarah experiences as she comes to terms with her abilities. She makes all the right choices, for once in her life, and is finally pleased with who she is. This is an easy read. I am no speed-reader but I started it and finished it on Thanksgiving weekend in between cooking dishes, cleaning the house and the clean-up after the family gathering. ...more
This is an amazing, horrifying, and devastating historical fiction set in 1742. It follows Aminata Diallo from the moment she loses her freedom, witneThis is an amazing, horrifying, and devastating historical fiction set in 1742. It follows Aminata Diallo from the moment she loses her freedom, witnesses the deaths of both her parents and is stolen into slavery at the age of 11. She is forced to march across her African country, is branded by her captors, and is put onto a slave trader's ship which sails to the USA where she is sold into the indigo trade. Her life in slavery is portrayed in graphic detail. You weep as she endures unthinkable tortures and cheer as she finally grasps her freedom during the American Revolution. But even in freedom, she encounters unbearable hardships, such as losing both her husband and having her daughter abducted by her employer. Her goal of returning home sees her travel from South Carolina to Nova Scotia, to Sierra Leone and eventually to London, where she works alongside Abolitionists in their fight to end slavery and the slave trade. An amazing adventure. Highly recommended! ...more
Told through the perspective of an early-onset Alzheimer's patient, the novel describes the fairly quick decline of Alice. In a matter of 18 months, ATold through the perspective of an early-onset Alzheimer's patient, the novel describes the fairly quick decline of Alice. In a matter of 18 months, Alice goes from being a tenured Harvard professor to being a lost and confused, mentally-ill patient who requires constant supervision and care. Since the narrator is Alice, the reader is taken step by step through the mental anguish and fear that she experiences, both in losing her capacity to think clearly and in the impact she is having on her family.
Through her medical research, Lisa Genova found a fair amount of information and support for the caregivers of Alzheimer's patients but none which described the symptoms from the perspective of the patient. This novel allows us to see Alice struggle to follow conversations and follow simple written instructions. It delves into the anger at her inability to do daily tasks and thoughts of suicide. She listens to her family and doctors discuss her actions and prognosis as if she is not in the room. Decisions which concern her seem to be taking place without her input, although she is told over and over that she was consulted but just doesn't remember.
As with all mental illnesses, there is a stigma with having Alzheimer's and Alice is keenly aware that she is being avoided. She learns to tell people about her illness and begins a support group for others like her.
I have also read Left Neglected and I found SA to follow the same formulaic style. Both novels show a woman at the top of her game, wanting for nothing yet not appreciating her family, her career or her health. After a few chapters describing her frenzied, self-important life, a diagnosis is made and everything in her life changes. Somehow with both books, despite the desperate situations, Genova leaves us on a positive note....more
This was a book that I fell into, like a comfortable bath, and never wanted to climb out. Diane Setterfield manages to create stories within stories wThis was a book that I fell into, like a comfortable bath, and never wanted to climb out. Diane Setterfield manages to create stories within stories within stories, without ever losing the reader. Each character is unique and authentic, making you want to know more about their history and interconnections. Successfully, you are transported back and forth through time, discovering new pieces and wondering how they will impact the present. Like a mystery, I felt that I was trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together right to the very end. The setting is timeless, with a old-fashioned, historical feel, although the present-day story is probably in the 1970s or 80s. Famous author, Ms. Vida Winter, chooses young bibliophile, Margaret Lea, to be her biographer and Margaret accepts the position, but she is reluctant to take on the task. Although Ms. Winter has produced many best-selling novels, she has managed to keep her personal life a complete secret and has lived in purposeful isolation and seclusion, revealing only carefully chosen tidbits of information during interviews. As the biography process begins, Margaret is convinced that Vida is simply telling another fictional story. Margaret is determined to verify the truth of Vida's life story and conducts parallel research into a few choice facts. Vida's carefully planned biography begins to take unpredictable turns as Margaret discovers new, untold chapters that Vida tried to keep hidden. This was my first Setterfield book and I look forward to spending time reading her others and re-reading the famous works referred to in the novel. ...more
There are some books that you simply cannot put down. This is not one of those. In fact, it was almost painful to pick it up. Sometimes I even chose tThere are some books that you simply cannot put down. This is not one of those. In fact, it was almost painful to pick it up. Sometimes I even chose to do something other than read in order to avoid it. As I read, I found myself wondering how on earth did this book end up in my 'to read' shelf. I remember now that it came from a friend's book club reading list, which is surprising since the other books listed have warranted 4 or more stars from me. The heroine is insecure and negative, yet sees herself as witty and charming. Oh, and fat. She goes on and on about being size 16. Yet as far as I know, size 16 is barely above the average size for an american woman. If this is what the current 20-somethings take as good literature, the future is truly bleak. Blech....more
I gave this book another try and I managed to finish it this time, but I didn't enjoy it much. I am a bit stunned at the owners' lack of discipline wiI gave this book another try and I managed to finish it this time, but I didn't enjoy it much. I am a bit stunned at the owners' lack of discipline with their dog's training and wonder what kind of children they have raised. Are their antics also dealt with a shoulder shrug and exasperation? I suppose that the Marley stories were written with a focus on humour but I only found them negligent. Some stories took me back to my starry-eyed days of childhood with our black labs but it also reinforced the hard work and discipline required to have a family dog. I, for one, would not attend a 40th birthday party where a 100 lb dog will jump up on the guests, swim in the backyard pool and slobber on my friends. Yuck. The title is misleading. It should read "Marley and Me: life and love with the world's worst dog owners".
(review dated Oct 2007) This is yet another book about a couple who gets a pet to see if they are ready to be parents. And then they become parents and begin to neglect their pet. I could barely get through the first 30 pages. I abandoned it then.
A wonderful look at poverty, racism and the power of the family. So many weighty subjects are handled with grace and respect. As well, the movie doesA wonderful look at poverty, racism and the power of the family. So many weighty subjects are handled with grace and respect. As well, the movie does the book justice....more
This is my 2nd Jodi Picoult book and I think I am already tiring of her style. She tells a story by giving the narration to different characters in eaThis is my 2nd Jodi Picoult book and I think I am already tiring of her style. She tells a story by giving the narration to different characters in each chapter. Unfortunately, the voice of the different characters does not change, except that they each fixate on some aspect, like astronomy or fire or public perception, and they try to bring this fixation into the plot. Having said all that, I still awarded it 4 stars. I enjoyed the controversial topic and I think that Picoult does well in convincing us of insane points of view. The mother, Sara, is a nut case and will do anything to save her leukemia daughter, but after reading Sara's chapters, I could understand her viewpoint and her desperation even though I continued to think she is an unjust, unloving and selfish parent. Watch out for spoilers on this one. I unfortunately read the title of a goodreads discussion topic on this book and the twist ending was revealed in one word. Beware!...more
Jeannette Walls gives us a devastating personal history, written in the most uplifting tone. This memoir is so similar to Frank McCourt's Angela's AshJeannette Walls gives us a devastating personal history, written in the most uplifting tone. This memoir is so similar to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, yet there is almost no sadness or despair. In fact, she tells us her story with little emotion, leaving the emotional interpretation up to the reader. I often laughed out loud at the vignettes and then caught myself and had to remember that this is a true story of an unbelievable childhood....more
If you can make it through the gruesome rape and murder scene at the beginning of the book, then you are in for a real treat, as the rest of the bookIf you can make it through the gruesome rape and murder scene at the beginning of the book, then you are in for a real treat, as the rest of the book is truly beautiful. Susie looks down from a heaven-like place at what remains of her family. She witnesses how each of them deals with her death and subtly leads them to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. Every teenaged girl should read it. It remains one of my favs....more