Tsukuru Tazaki was part of a harmonious, close group of five friends who did volunteer work together when they were in high school. The other four teeTsukuru Tazaki was part of a harmonious, close group of five friends who did volunteer work together when they were in high school. The other four teenagers all had surnames that contained the name of a color. Although Tsukuru had a colorless name, his name fit him since Tsukuru means "to make things". His dream was to become an engineer who built railroad stations, and he left his four Nagoya friends to attend college in Tokyo.
During his sophomore year of college, his other friends suddenly cut off all ties with him and would not return his phone calls. Tsukuru had no idea why they treated him this way, and he was afraid to ask. He felt alone, colorless, just barely living in a void. When he is 36 years old, his new girlfriend tells him that he needs to investigate his past in order to have healthy relationships, and to be emotionally able to make a strong connection with someone.
Haruki Murakami uses an interesting blend of reality, dreams, melancholy music, and magical stories to tell Tsukuru's tale. The author draws a thin line between subconscious desires, traumatic events, and reality. Emotions thought buried can protrude through the surface, and direct our present and future paths. Although the ending is ambiguous, there is a feeling of hope for Tsukuru.
It was a hot, humid evening when fifteen-year-old Lindy came riding her bike home from track practice in Baton Rouge. After an attack by a male hidingIt was a hot, humid evening when fifteen-year-old Lindy came riding her bike home from track practice in Baton Rouge. After an attack by a male hiding in the bushes Lindy was no longer a carefree child, and dark elements surfaced in the neighborhood. Looking back to the summer of 1989 when he was a fourteen-year-old boy, the unnamed narrator begins, "There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson....I should tell you now that I was one of the suspects."
The story is a coming-of-age tale about a boy infatuated with Lindy. He wanted to find her attacker, and suspected others in their affluent neighborhood. He also had to cope with raging hormones and some traumatic family events. Both he and Lindy had interactions with other neighbors who seemed real and complex. Voyeurs in the neighborhood sat up on tree branches with binoculars, spied from windows, and snapped clandestine photographs. Events from his teen years shaped the narrator into the man he has become twenty years later.
My Sunshine Away is an absorbing, suspenseful mystery and more. I also appreciated M.O. Walsh's beautiful language, his atmospheric Louisiana setting, and compelling characters. ...more
Neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova has written another compelling book about a family challenged by a devastating disease. The O'Briens are a blue-Neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova has written another compelling book about a family challenged by a devastating disease. The O'Briens are a blue-collar Irish-Catholic family with the father working as a Boston cop. His family and coworkers notice changes in his manner--uncontrollable movements, falls, disorganization, and violently losing his temper. When he sees a doctor, he learns he has Huntington's Disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disease with no cure. Joe's four children each have a 50% chance of inheriting the faulty gene which brings on symptoms around age 35-45.
The book is told alternately from the points of view of Joe, and his 21-year-old daughter Katie. Katie, a yoga instructor, has dreams of opening her own yoga studio and planning a future with the man she loves. She and her siblings can be tested for Huntington's Disease if they wish. Is it better to know whether you have the disease so you don't pass it on to your children? Or is it worse knowing that you definitely will be facing an incurable disease with an early death? Will you panic every time you drop something or wobble a bit while exercising?
Huntington's Disease is a condition that affects a whole family, not just the person with the first diagnosis. Although there were tragic moments in this story, the family also exhibited humor, love, and loyalty. There was also quite a bit of Boston local color, especially involving the Red Sox, and amusing conversations between Joe and the other cops.
Lisa Genova's first book, Still Alice, translated well to the movie screen. Inside the O'Briens would also make a marvelous movie since the story has interesting, well-developed characters who are emotionally torn and have many difficult decisions to make. I found myself caring about the members of the O'Brien family--and reaching for the box of tissues several times....more
Leo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two fLeo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two families become entangled in this story about relationships, love, and loss.
Leo, an art historian, is the narrator looking back on the last twenty-five years in a book divided into three sections. The first part sets us in the New York City world of artists, academics, and intellectuals. There are beautiful, detailed descriptions of Bill's art and Violet's research on hysteria and eating disorders. The two families live in the same building, and their young sons, Matthew and Mark, become friends.
Part two begins and ends with tragedies. Some relationships struggle to survive because grief overwhelms the people. Friends offer needed emotional support. The Wechslers' son Mark is a troubled boy, an unrepentant liar with surface charm. He falls under the spell of an installation artist, Teddy Giles, who creates art about sadistic violence.
The third section of the book changes its tone into a psychological thriller as Leo and Violet try to save Mark from being completely drawn into Teddy Giles' world. It was fast-paced and exciting, although a multi-city trip to the Midwest seemed a little over the top.
As the title suggests, the older Leo has told us what he had loved--friends, family, art, and intellectual ideas. The journey was sometimes heartbreaking, but always complex and fascinating.
For an individual, and for a family, events from the past determine what the present will be. The title of the book comes from the song "What a WonderFor an individual, and for a family, events from the past determine what the present will be. The title of the book comes from the song "What a Wonderful World", sung by Louis Armstrong, which contains the lyrics "the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night". A therapist tells two of the characters:
"The past is like the night: dark yet sacred....There is no day without night, no wakefulness without sleep, no present without past. They are constantly somersaulting over each other."
Kit Noonan has been feeling despondent since losing his job teaching art history. He feels the weight of a mortgage and providing for two children, but has the energy of a car in neutral. His wife thinks that his lack of motivation comes partly from not knowing the identity of his birth father. Kit's mother refuses to give him any information, so he visits his ex-stepfather. Jasper is a colorful outdoorsman who raises huskies and works at a Vermont ski resort. After Jasper gives him information about his birth father's family, Kit realizes how much of a caring father Jasper was to him during his teens.
As Kit connects with his birth father's relatives and friends, flashbacks go as far back as his grandparents courting in the 1940s. Some of the characters are favorites from Julia Glass' first book Three Junes. The connections of what it is to be a family--warmth, love, missed opportunities, resentment--are all there in this overly large group of characters....more
The author was inspired by the true story of a group of fourteen people from an Irish village who traveled on the Titanic in 1912, hoping to find a beThe author was inspired by the true story of a group of fourteen people from an Irish village who traveled on the Titanic in 1912, hoping to find a better life in America. The fictional Maggie Murphy, a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, was so traumatized by the terrible events that she had been unwilling to share her story, even with her family. As she reached her 90th birthday, Maggie opened up to her great-granddaughter and showed her the journal she kept during the fateful voyage.
The novel concentrates on a group of Irish friends who traveled steerage class, rather than the rich and famous first class passengers, although they are also mentioned. The surviving passengers were rescued by the ship "Carpathia" and brought to New York City. There were conflicting lists of survivors with many passengers in shock or suffering from hypothermia, and unable to communicate. The heartbroken survivors faced life in a new country without their loved ones who had perished in the disaster.
The novel was composed of regular chapters, journal entries, letters, and telegrams. The first half of the book was very repetitious with many events in the regular chapters mentioned a second time in the journal or letters. Some more editing would have improved this part of the book. Fortunately, the last half of the book, about the sinking of the Titanic and its aftermath, was very engaging. The back of the book also contained some interesting historical information and material for reading groups....more
As I read through the first few high quality cream pages, beautifully illustrated with pictures of fish, I felt drawn into the peaceful atmosphere ofAs I read through the first few high quality cream pages, beautifully illustrated with pictures of fish, I felt drawn into the peaceful atmosphere of an aquarium. Well, that calm feeling didn't last long as the book exploded into a drama of a damaged family.
Sheri is supporting herself and her twelve-year-old daughter Caitlin by working an exhausting, low paying job on the docks. Living paycheck to paycheck, the single mother does not have the funds for an after-school program so Caitlin hangs out at the aquarium every afternoon. She and a kind elderly man develop a friendship as they share their interest in the aquatic world, an escape from reality. When Sheri finds out his identity, her hidden traumatic past comes roaring back.
This is a story about the deep need for love and for family, the agony of abandonment, and the difficulty of forgiveness. Sheri's anger is deep and explosive to the point of child abuse. Sheri wants Caitlin to understand what she went through so she gives Caitlin a brutal taste of what she experienced. Emotions range from Caitlin's gentle love to Sheri's wish for revenge. The ending is wrapped up rather quickly with redemption, but one knows that it's a long haul in the real world. The writing is anguished, intense, and beautiful....more
"Give Me Your Heart" is a collection of ten dark short stories about people looking for love and acceptance. They are often downtrodden people who are"Give Me Your Heart" is a collection of ten dark short stories about people looking for love and acceptance. They are often downtrodden people who are emotionally on the edge, or teenagers who have found themselves over their heads in dangerous situations. The title story is about an older man who promised a woman student that he would love her forever--and the rejected woman is stalking him and planning her revenge years later. "Strip Poker" involves an adolescent girl getting caught up in a card game with some older male teens in an isolated cottage--and trying to outsmart them. "Vena Cava" tells the story of a soldier returning from Iraq with PTSD and terrible injuries to his head which prevent him from emotionally connecting to the civilian world.
The stories were so intense that I found I only wanted to read a couple in one sitting. A few stories had endings that went a bit overboard. But the rest were frighteningly plausible, much like the activities of real deranged people we read about in our newspapers. Joyce Carol Oates is a good storyteller, building up tension higher and higher, then ending in a twist or horrific event....more
"The Piano Teacher" is a look at relationships involving control, submission, and psychological manipulation. Erika, a piano teacher in her thirties,"The Piano Teacher" is a look at relationships involving control, submission, and psychological manipulation. Erika, a piano teacher in her thirties, still lives with her domineering mother in a love/hate relationship. Her mother controlled her every move as a child, shutting her off from other people, and demanding endless hours of musical practice daily. Although Erika was technically proficient, her emotions were too shut down to ever achieve greatness in interpreting the music.
Erika's small attempt at rebellion is to buy beautiful dresses that she never wears. If she comes home late from work, her angry mother punishes her by tearing up one of her dresses. Erika is sexually repressed, sneaking away to peep shows, and spying upon lovers in the woods. She uses a razor to cut herself since self-mutilation is a way for her to feel.
Walter Klemmer, a young engineering student at the university, is taking piano lessons from Erika, a strict teacher. He's a popular ladies' man who chases Erika while she initially resists his advances. After she spells out what she wants in a relationship, the novel spirals down into darkness, anger, violence, and despair.
The author, Elfriede Jelinek, was also an accomplished musician in Vienna, a child prodigy who was pushed relentlessly by her mother. Vienna is known for its fine musicians, and excelling at music was prized. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004.
This is a difficult book to rate. Jelinek is a talented, often lyrical, writer. The three main characters--Erika, Mother, and Walter--are unlikable, but darkly fascinating. Although there are many sexual scenes, the book is not romantic or erotic since sexuality is just another controlling tool in the psychological arsenal. I'm giving this disturbing novel four stars because it was well written, but I wouldn't describe it as an "enjoyable" book. ...more