The reason I loved this book comes down to one word: authenticity. I bought into this woman's life and believed these characters. I have this vivid pi...moreThe reason I loved this book comes down to one word: authenticity. I bought into this woman's life and believed these characters. I have this vivid picture in my mind of this ranch out in the middle of nowhere with Sarah out there putting laundry on the line with a pistol tucked in her rugged apron.
I don't like western movies or get into frontier stories and was worried, especially by the title, that the grammar would rake on my nerves. But the story is about a thirst for education as much as anything else and as Sarah learns, her writing improves. It may be rare to find a woman in the late 1800s who wants to go to college, considers women on the same level as men and doesn't want a man to care for her, and treats Mexicans and Indians as her own white neighbors, but there is enough 19th-century humility, morality, and territory toughness to keep her era appropriate. Unlike Little House on the Prairie with obvious '80s-era actors fighting against stigmas of the day, I found Sarah to be the perfect frontier woman, a little forward thinking, but just enough to make her yearning add to her perfection.
We find all kinds of characters in the book: Indians, Army men, ranchers, Mexicans, Quakers, spoiled Easterners, foreigners, even polygamist Mormons, all minor characters splattered throughout Sarah's life to give us a feel for the type of people around the territories in those days. Mingled with the mundane, which I found interesting, was enough excitement, like Indian attacks and the danger of women alone, to make me want to keep reading. It gave me the sense of how fragile life could be with attacks, childbirth, disease, and nature.
Turner did a fantastic job of giving us a picture of life on the early frontier without making it feel like she's teaching us what life on the early frontier is like. You find out the chore it is to cook a long meal and put together a bath without running water because Sarah is exasperated without any help. Through Sarah's commentary we learn about housing conditions, cattle herding, adjusting and making clothes, mail and bank systems, conditions on wagon trains, and even conjugal issues with whispered conversations with Savannah. These were my favorite, especially Savannah's Quaker rigidness strictly against kissing before marriage. Occasionally, like the article describing their new home with indoor plumbing, I felt pulled out of the story with the intention clear to educate on the times more than describe Sarah's life, but overall the description felt like Sarah's life and not overview.
The other authentic aspect of the book that I loved was the love story. Not your unrealistic perfect man who can do no wrong which creates a man who is overbearing or too emotionally unrealistic. No, this is a real-life love story about a relationship that makes you crazy mad and impatient at the same time. Love through the ups and downs of life. A man who is stubborn in being himself but even though he understands her better than herself, requires her not to change either, who just wants to be with her and finds all her imperfections endearing. It's the guy who may be a little rough on the outside, not the one who knows just how to smooth talk his way into your heart, who will treat you like gold. I really enjoyed their story, and the suffering and learning she had to go through to get there. The perfect combination of excitement and believability to make me want to read the story and feel that it could really have happened.(less)
Powerful. This is the story of a Hasidic Jew who is a gifted painter, a talent not approved of among orthodox Jews. His life becomes a struggle betwee...morePowerful. This is the story of a Hasidic Jew who is a gifted painter, a talent not approved of among orthodox Jews. His life becomes a struggle between his father--who tries to stir him away from the arts to more traditionally accepted hobbies all the while trying to understand him--and his need to draw to express himself. I could sympathize with all the characters in the book: his father for trying to hold onto his religious convictions without dominance but love, his mother for trying to love and encourage her son while staying at one with her husband, the mentor for his love and devotion to art, and especially Asher for trying to balance it all.
I loved that it wasn't a story about how his parents rejected him because he was different but tried to understand and love their son the best way they knew how and still maintain their faith. It was an honest parent/child relationship and I think Asher valued his faith and his parents more for their attempt at understanding him. I enjoyed learning about Hasidic Jews and understanding their religious convictions as well as experiencing the aesthetic pull to explain the world through art. The backdrop was so real to me that I could feel this boy's life. My one complaint would be that I still wonder what a few of terms mean. Like what exactly does Ladover mean?
Asher says this of painting: "I paint my feelings. I paint how I see and feel about the world. But I paint a painting, not a story." I absolutely loved that the writing style correlates with a painting style. Asher is non-descriptive about his feelings, only stating his replies to people's questions instead of delving inside his own emotions. Just a painting, the reader is left to interpret those for himself. The story flows through the years smoothly, but it is the writing style that puts it on a higher level. When style can add another layer by making you feel Asher's love of painting, it makes the book beautiful.
The reason this is one of my favorite books is that I connected with this book on a deeply personal level. As someone who dabbles with the art of writing and an extremely religious person, I often wonder how I would balance art and religion. I hate that it has to be a choice, but if you are going to commit yourself that deeply to an art, there will come a time when you have to pick your art or your faith. I hope I would pick faith, but where I draw the line may different than someone else's and therefore I run the risk of offending. Part of being an artist is coming to terms with this displacement. It is the reason I empathized with Asher and come back to his story time and again in my own quest to balance it all.(less)
It's been many years since I stumbled upon this read and at the time it was my favorite. This is the story of a guy in the 1960s who pleads insanity t...moreIt's been many years since I stumbled upon this read and at the time it was my favorite. This is the story of a guy in the 1960s who pleads insanity to avoid prison time and ensues upon a power struggle with the head nurse of the mental ward who does not believe him sick. It is written from the perspective of a quiet, observant Indian who has psychotic episodes, which makes the story interesting, but then again I love all things psychology. His perspective is not always accurate and often you find yourself in the midst of one of his delusional episodes and have to decipher for yourself what exactly is happening.
The character development is great, especially your hatred of nurse Hatchet, and the quirky peculiarities of the mental ward routine (ala Rainman "Judge Wapner 3 o'clock") are entertaining. You learn to care for these characters and want them to overcome the tyranny of the nursing staff so when they question demands and retaliation ensues to restore order, you feel invested in the outcome of the patients. A fascinating read. My one warning would be, from what I remember, strong language and some sexual content. (less)
It's a classic. Everyone has to read this book, right? My complaint about the book is the ending. All that build up to the climax and then... deus ex...moreIt's a classic. Everyone has to read this book, right? My complaint about the book is the ending. All that build up to the climax and then... deus ex machina.(less)
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Manson family but were afraid to ask least you be subjective to intensive Rorschach inkblot testing to di...moreEverything you ever wanted to know about the Manson family but were afraid to ask least you be subjective to intensive Rorschach inkblot testing to discover the true horror of your subconscious with such morbid inquiries. I first read this book because I wanted to grasp the psychological disorders of Charles Manson--and there are plenty to go around: delusions of grandeur, paranoia, your basis psychotic--but underneath any mental health dysfunction a person can just be bad.
Whom I do feel for are his brainwashed followers who seem as if they could have lead normal lives but they are the ones living with the psychological consequences of what they have done now that are away from his influence. I listened to the Beatles White album during my read (Manson claimed was a personal message to him) which helped give me a glimpse into his interpretation and added to the eerie feel of the book.
The book is written by the prosecuting attorney so there is no lack of forensic evidence and I found both the build up in Manson's scheme, the murders, and the trial fascinating. I'm a little obsessed. (less)
This is the one of the few where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I love Edith Wharton, but the backflash format creates a slow-moving narrativ...moreThis is the one of the few where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I love Edith Wharton, but the backflash format creates a slow-moving narrative on a story that could be good. I recommend you see the movie instead. (less)
The story was cute (great for young girls). It's about a princess set off to marry an unknown prince and ends up having to work as a low goose girl to...moreThe story was cute (great for young girls). It's about a princess set off to marry an unknown prince and ends up having to work as a low goose girl to gain her crown (and the prince) back. Unlike her mother and lady-in-waiting, she is not good with people, but good with animals, and in the process of rallying the other workers around her, she learns a lot about her self. It's a quick read with a great message.(less)
Spanish literature is always better in its original language. I believe this is Portuguese, but nonetheless a romantic language with ideals and langua...moreSpanish literature is always better in its original language. I believe this is Portuguese, but nonetheless a romantic language with ideals and language more similar than English. I didn't quite buy into the fantastical, magical quality of his alchemist search as I have with other Spanish literature but I did enjoy learning about the power and purpose and message of his search. It's a good read. My favorite part of the book was the Muslim shop owner who would not make is trek to Mecca because then he would have nothing to live for. As long as this life goal dangled in front of him he had a purpose. (less)
It's a heart-wrenching story about a little girl living in poverty conditions who is abused by her stepfather. She turns to her sister for complete em...moreIt's a heart-wrenching story about a little girl living in poverty conditions who is abused by her stepfather. She turns to her sister for complete emotional support and creates a world where nothing outside their allegiance to each other matters. You want to protect these girls and hope with each incident that somehow something intervenes. The abuse isn't graphic, but even implied is horrific. I can still see this girl with dirty sweaty hair matted to her face curled up inside herself. Then you get to the end of the story and grasp how truly devastating the abuse has been. I didn't see it coming, surprising as it comes straight out of the textbook on one of my favorite subjects: psychology.(less)