This book was absolutely riveting in the best way possible. The entire book just unfolds in a number of different voices, flowing beautifully from one...moreThis book was absolutely riveting in the best way possible. The entire book just unfolds in a number of different voices, flowing beautifully from one to the next. Sandra Cisneros embraces outlandish storytelling and shares it all with love, passion, and attention to detail. She weaves between languages, centuries, countries (between the U.S. and Mexico), and it's all really enjoyable.
If you need a plot, don't bother reading (not that there isn't one; it's just secondary). It's much more about the journey than anything, which is my favorite kind of book. It took me a while to read because I wanted to savor every word and story. I had to compare her grandmother's stories and rationalizations with my mother's, her uncles to mine, their malapropisms with some of my relatives'.(less)
I loved this book so much! It was a refreshing read, mostly because many novels stray away from the horrors of war, romanticize revolution, or forget...moreI loved this book so much! It was a refreshing read, mostly because many novels stray away from the horrors of war, romanticize revolution, or forget about the human elements of conflict, especially the little happenings in life that continue to happen even during war. That was the best part of this book. Adichie's strength is in telling human stories. this is my first time reading her but it's definitely huge that Chinua Achebe called her a great storyteller beyond her years. He's definitely right.
Remember that this is a book about people. Not a book about struggle or war (though those are prominent themes in the book) but of the everyday. I love that. Throughout the book the reader learna bout Ugwu, Odenigbo, and Olanna as well as the people in their lives. We hear about their lifestyle, their jobs, their family and friends. We learn who they are and what motivates them in their best times and their worst. I got more invested than I initially expected, especially during more tawdry elements of the story. I thoroughly appreciated that these characters were seriously flawed and not just in deep ways. It complicated things but it also made the story that much more real. It forced me to think about the fact that I was equally upset when a personal relationship fell as I did when characters witnessed others dying around them in the war. That says something about how our experiences shape us and our perspectives change. Even though some moments are expected or supposed to break us, sometimes it's the mundane that hurts us the most.
This focus on people allows Adichie to use her writing as a platform to point out many truths of revolution: the gap between ideals/politics and reality, faith in a cause even when there's no proof of success, the ethics of attacking starving civilians, the influence of world powers (Britain, the US, China, etc) on smaller nations fighting for independence, war along ethnic lines, propaganda and (in)effective use of the media, reunification efforts, abuse of power, class shifts during wartime, absolving others' mistakes because they're on the right side of the war, and a million other thought-provoking themes.
I'd recommend it, especially since it reads very quickly. It's fast-paced (or at least it was for me) and full of beautiful writing. The themes are wonderful but the best feature of Adichie's writing was definitely her use of language. She incorporated Igbo into the story so well, adding phrases here and there. She even added phrases and figures of speech to color the locals' conversations by using direct translations or pidgin English as opposed to the standard. These aren't new techniques but they added a great deal to the novel for me.
This was an easier read than I anticipated. Usually fiction is tougher for me to absorb than fact-based books. In any case, it was generally enjoyable...moreThis was an easier read than I anticipated. Usually fiction is tougher for me to absorb than fact-based books. In any case, it was generally enjoyable. I thought that the resolution felt rushed and that there wasn't a ton of attention paid to growth within individual characters. Even Sutty as the main character didn't have much going on in the middle of the book. There were a number of great little moments, highlighted by attention to detail. There were many languages in this multi-planet society. Some more accepted as educated and some nearly eradicated. It really helped make the story feel real.
The thing about this story that resonates most with me isn't the fact that it takes place in a purely rational future, but the serious similarities to current struggles, especially in the West. This book was published in 2000, pre-9/11. I had to keep checking the copyright page to ensure that this was true. Ursula K. LeGuin mentions drone warfare as a norm, even going so far as to describe military workers in the midwest dropping bombs and going home right after. She also talks about a new type of war without clear enemies, ethics, or a clear end. It's a logical conclusion to draw given the cyclical nature of social problems, like education and its link to power. Or power and its link to militarism. The themes if this book are well thought out and presented well.
On a still important but lesser note, it was nice to see characters who aren't straight as part of a storyline that didn't eat up the entire book. It provided and interesting perspective and made this imaginary world feel more full.(less)
You'll know whether you like this book in the first ten pages. I really needed a laugh. Normally I don't read much fiction, especially not satire, but...moreYou'll know whether you like this book in the first ten pages. I really needed a laugh. Normally I don't read much fiction, especially not satire, but I greatly enjoyed this novel. I'd seen (not read) Thank You for Smoking and picked this book up at a Goodwill for two bucks. Why not? Witty author known for ripping Washington to shreds, colorful cover, cheap asking price. Done.
Yes, the characters are two-dimensional. I can deal with that because Boomsday was a light read with some serious politics going on throughout: the end of social security, commonplace corruption, PR spinning, saving face. It's all in there and if you can't laugh at these caricatures, what else can you do. It's striking how close he gets to describing Occupy years before it happened. Is it perfect? No but it's certainly fun, quick, over the top, and thought-provoking.(less)
I really loved this book! As historical fiction, it could have gone in a very dark and straight-forward direction with a strict focus on the Mirabal s...moreI really loved this book! As historical fiction, it could have gone in a very dark and straight-forward direction with a strict focus on the Mirabal sisters during the revolution. Instead, it took a more delicate and loving approach, making you fall in love with the characters as they grew up under Trujillo's reign. I loved the format of the book. Each chapter was narrated by a different sister so you saw the same major events unfolding from many perspectives and caught a glimpse at the little happenings in their lives, too. The classmates, the new crushes, the loss of faith, the epiphanies in their lives. Overall, the story was well-constructed and heartfelt. While I found it painful to read at times, I wouldn't call this book depressing. It was more eye-opening and made me question a lot of aspects of society. What is freedom? How can we ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect? Should heroes take on a mythical status? Is the struggle ever really over?(less)
This book was a journey, not an easy one but a worthwhile one. Surprisingly, I read through it quickly. The book revolves around Sophie Caco, a young...moreThis book was a journey, not an easy one but a worthwhile one. Surprisingly, I read through it quickly. The book revolves around Sophie Caco, a young Haitian girl transplanted into NYC to finally live with her mother. New York is not as glamorous as her friends and relatives in the countryside told her it would be. I love this book because it went beyond plot. Yes, there is a story but that main narrative is filled with many other little anecdotes and hillside tales of magic, wonder, pain, poverty, abuse, and triumph. Everyone from Grandme Ife to Tante Atie shares some wisdom through parables. It's incredibly comforting, even when something heartbreaking happens. Perhaps especially then.
The story is really about finding peace within the main character's self. Finding out who she needs to be to get through her pain and live her life. To break the cycles of poverty and abuse in which she'd been raised. I also appreciate this book for providing a narrative of Haiti, and rural people in general, that didn't beg for pity. Yes, people are poor. Yes, there are systems of oppression that are still going strong. Yes, there is strife. That doesn't mean that life is all bad or that people live as victims, constantly showing their scars. That's the most powerful part of the book to me. The gentle portrayal of people who are often misrepresented.
I'd recommend it but be aware that there is some sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and other triggers.(less)
I tend to have issues with fiction, especially sci-fi, so I'm honestly surprised that I've made so much progress on this book. That being said, it was...moreI tend to have issues with fiction, especially sci-fi, so I'm honestly surprised that I've made so much progress on this book. That being said, it was hard to get into the first 50 pages or so because it placed the reader into the future right away with no explanations. It's comforting and weird at the same time because explanation requires remembering what's going on but also distances me as a reader from the characters so I can judge them easier. Reading about a future where people have burned out the Earth's resources and are considering colonizing a new planet to resume the status quo was almost too close to home. And that's totally the point, which is why I admire Jeanette Winterson for writing this book.
She does an excellent job of providing social commentary throughout the text on issues from terrorism to an obsession with youth that borders on pedophilia to nuclear war. She ponders what a world without resources (even money) can be and goes the extra mile of comparing it to other time periods in the past. Isn't conquering a new planet similar to British explorers "discovering" Polynesia? She goes there.
On top of that, she incorporates literary elements into a genre that tends to be more action-based. There isn't much action in this book and I appreciate that. It's less about the world ending or restarting as it were, and more about observing people struggling with a changing world. There's a great sense of repetition throughout the novel. Certain phrases are highlighted and mentioned over and over or the same sentiment is repeated but the phrases change or the language becomes more antiquated. Characters from different time periods share similar experiences and names to emphasize how closely linked these situations are.
While it might have been a little out there for me at times (not from a realist standpoint but from a what am I reading standpoint), this book was definitely a challenging one to read. That's wholly intentional. Maybe that's why there's a bisexual robot? To ease the discomfort of looking privatization and paranoid governments in the face? Maybe to remind us that there are no easy answers.(less)
Kindred was beautiful, intense, and incredibly painful all at once. If nothing else, Octavia Butler definitely knows how to make you feel for Dana and...moreKindred was beautiful, intense, and incredibly painful all at once. If nothing else, Octavia Butler definitely knows how to make you feel for Dana and realize that slavery affected and continues to affect all people.(less)