A summer read, but not a fluffy beach read. This is really close to 5-star. Beautiful settings, complex characters, some light moments, some deeper thA summer read, but not a fluffy beach read. This is really close to 5-star. Beautiful settings, complex characters, some light moments, some deeper themes.
I have mixed feelings about the structure, which moves backwards in time. With two of the main characters--Gerald and Lulu--I found this a bit frustrating, because their interactions throughout most of the book don't make sense (Gerald in particular comes across as a little batty). With the other two main characters--Aegina and Luc--the reverse chronology overhyped their relationship (the backstory didn't really deliver).
On the other hand, it's fun to see some of the peripheral characters in their earlier selves (for example, Cassian, the white collar criminal, is very interesting as a kid in the last bit of the book).
The main characters offer familiar plots (unrequited love, mistimed romantic efforts, neglectful versus nurturing parenting as a response to how one was parented oneself). Gerald's Odyssey obsession works well with the sense of place. Lulu is probably the least sympathetic character, but she has some fantastic scenes. Aegina is the most sympathetic character for me. And in many ways, the peripheral characters make this book--their dialogue came out just right. This is one I'd read again. ...more
3.5 stars. This one offers more insights into the day-to-day and special-occasion rituals of North Korean culture. The TV shows that little boys like.3.5 stars. This one offers more insights into the day-to-day and special-occasion rituals of North Korean culture. The TV shows that little boys like. The foods and outfits parents give to their children for Sports Day.
A few parts of the story struck me as unusual and hard to believe. For example, his family moved around the country a lot, more freely than I thought people could. And are North Korean defectors really taken directly to U.S. consulates/embassies in the PRC and flown to L.A.? I thought the routes were much more complicated and tended to involve some debriefing periods. I'm not saying he's wrong, obviously, but his story is different.
This is a "stranger comes to town" story: an outsider makes a tightly knit group question its behavior. The tightly knit group happens to be an OrthodThis is a "stranger comes to town" story: an outsider makes a tightly knit group question its behavior. The tightly knit group happens to be an Orthodox community in Memphis. Their beliefs are treated with warmth and affection, and the dialogue, though sometimes not very natural sounding, explores what motivates deeply religious people. This book comes from a different place than some recent memoirs by people who've broken away from Orthodox communities and now harshly criticize them. In terms of writing choices, the author chose an interesting voice--the collective "we" as a narrator worked here. The shifts from a broader "we" perspective to a simple focus on particular individuals fit with how this group of characters seemed to see themselves--they had a strong sense of group-over-individual. ...more
More like 2.5. The style is a mix of beach read and bar journal. The characters made me thankful that I'm no longer in my 20s. The plot made me realizMore like 2.5. The style is a mix of beach read and bar journal. The characters made me thankful that I'm no longer in my 20s. The plot made me realize how tired I am of law snobbery. And the way the sole African-American spoke bothered me. She is the only character who genuinely loves the law and intellectual engagement with it, but her dialogue is like a spoof of a Real Housewives show.
On the plus side, the story does bring you into the day-to-day world of appellate court clerking. It explicitly raises questions about diversity (of all types) in the courts, and it implicitly raises questions about the celebrity status of (at least some) judges. Also, I like books that pit strong women characters against each other (without having them fighting over men or being rescued by men). Finally, the law teaching nerd in me enjoyed that the judges were categorized as good or bad based on their writing skills and how intensively they mentored their clerks in writing.
If my students asked me, I'd recommend but with reservations. Although I'm not a fan of Above the Law, I respect the author's social media skills and would give his future fiction efforts a shot. ...more