A woman discovers her husband's secrets after his death.
I will be reading this book again and again. Ann PatA woman discovers her husband's secrets after his death.
I will be reading this book again and again. Ann Patchett's characters are so rich and she shuffles them around in different settings to force them out of their comfort zones. There is so much to study in this book.
Normally I'm bored by stories that revolve around dreams, but Patchett uses Sabine's dreams to have the readers interact with Phan and, more importantly, Parsifal. She wrote these passages with very realistic emotions taking place in odd settings, exactly how those dreams that feel real work. The effect made me wonder if they were actually visiting her or if she was working through the events of previous chapters.
The odd love affair between Sabine and Parsifal is touching, never maudlin. It's complicated in a very real way. I enjoyed Sabine's perspective on loving a gay man and the sacrifices she'd made to find happiness in it. I enjoyed learning about her relationship with Phan, the jealousy, the shared interest.
Sabine's trip to Nebraska and the secrets revealed were riveting. Kitty, Howard, and Haas smacked away the ideal visit Dot and Bertie had in LA. It forced them to bond faster to each other. By the end, I sensed that all the characters were made better for what happened. And I was stunned how beautifully written the theme of the importance one person can have on many lives. ...more
A chauffeur-turned-detective suffering from Tourette's syndrome becomes obsessed with finding his boss's killer.
______________SPOILERS AHOY___________A chauffeur-turned-detective suffering from Tourette's syndrome becomes obsessed with finding his boss's killer.
I opened the discussion by asking the group if they thought the novel was gimmicky. After scrolling through the Goodreads review I saw quite a few people write that they couldn't get through the hacky premise. Not one of the 10 of us agreed. People have Tourette's and we talked about people we've seen around our city yelling to themselves who we dismissed as crazy but probably couldn't help it. So, the idea that someone like Lionel Esrogg could be a detective is absolutely plausible. After the initial shock of outbursts, people just ignored or moved away from him. As the book says, Lionel could "hide in plain sight."
Having just read The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, we recognized traditional noir straight away and appreciated that the author didn't mask his influences, having his characters quote Marlowe directly.
A few of the members appreciated reading a main character with OCD tendencies. It's rare that someone suffering from OCD is written as a main character. Lionel's tics added to the tension of the detective story without overpowering it, in my opinion. The calming mechanisms Lionel employed throughout the novel let the reader know when he was getting uncomfortable, often with hilarious effect. I'm thinking of the nervous scenes when he starts tapping the shoulders of the Yakuza in the Maine restaurant or when he gets kicked out of the Buddhist Zendo.
In a novel with such a distinct central character, other characters stood out. Frank Minna's influence on his "Boys" and on Lionel especially was touching and genuine. Especially when Julia explains that Frank kept Lionel around because people consistently underestimated him. Julia's backstory was explored (which is against the traditional noir genre) and her motivations were explained. Most of the other characters are stock, but personally I forgive that because Lionel makes up for it. You can't flesh out such a self aware character without taking the spotlight away from other characters. Plus, as I mentioned before, noir is very much about one fully developed character surrounded by stock characters.
We talked a bit about Lionel's identity. No parents, no family, no home; he finds his identity in his youth in the cool guy who comes to the orphanage to find a crew. This book is about Lionel having to find his own identity after the cool guy gets iced.
We thought it was strange how at the end of the novel Julia just starts explaining her story. But the author probably thought it was odd too because he interrupts the monologue by having Lionel shift the focus with tics.
Those of us who listened to the audio version said it was fantastic. The voice artist's portrayal of Lionel's wordplay tic added a lot to the tension of the story. Some might argue it was overused; I would disagree.
Look for Motherless Brooklyn to come out as a movie starring Edward Norton as Lionel. The movie's currently slated to come out later this year.
Our next book is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Other books we considered for February: The Martian by Andy Weir, The Witch: and Other Tales Retold by Jean Thompson, Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman....more
Flannery O'Connor was no progressive. That might be why I am so interested in her. Her stories are a time capsule of a certain mindset that I just donFlannery O'Connor was no progressive. That might be why I am so interested in her. Her stories are a time capsule of a certain mindset that I just don't understand. THere are stories of hers that seem to be saying that African Americans have been suffering for the sins of white people. Then there are the stories that are almost entirely composed of an upsetting word.
I saw a comment on an article about this book that said something like, "We can't hold a woman who was born in 1923 to the same expectations we have today." I agree with that, but I also can't ignore my modern sentiments on the matter. I really love the morality expressed in A Good Man Is Hard To FindThe River, and Good Country People. But other stories are very hard to read....more
Fantastic storytelling. A man researches his grandfather's life in an effort to find out why his mother and aunts don't talk about him.
______________Fantastic storytelling. A man researches his grandfather's life in an effort to find out why his mother and aunts don't talk about him.
I hope my family stories are written half as well and the characters half as engaging as Charles Bundrum. This book felt like sitting around a large meal listening to family reminisce about a person they loved dearly. A person you only know through their words. Somehow Rick Bragg divulges the good and the bad about his grandfather without any smudges on his name.
This is the perfect example of how important it is for family folklore to be passed down.
Most surprising thing about rereading this book is how true the movies stayed to it. Tim Burton's version made Willy Wonka more creepy, but he's creepMost surprising thing about rereading this book is how true the movies stayed to it. Tim Burton's version made Willy Wonka more creepy, but he's creepy in the book as well. It's just easier to smooth over when we're not confronted with facial features, I think....more
The best read I've had in a while. Quick summary: Family secrets come out when a man is found wandering outside a studio exec's office. But it's reallThe best read I've had in a while. Quick summary: Family secrets come out when a man is found wandering outside a studio exec's office. But it's really so much more than that.
Dude. Read this book! It's funny, it's well written, and it's got a beautiful message. It's been 4 days since I finished the book and I've already recommended it to people 6 times. I even recommended it to a stranger on the el. Every person in my 8-person strong book group liked this book.
On a shallow level, you could tell people it's an unkind look behind a Hollywood picture, the epic disaster (at the time) of Liz Taylor's and Richard Burton's movie, Cleopatra. But on a literary level, it's about the difference between right and wrong. This book is about creativity. This book is about the algebra involved in living; the choices we make that add or divide the sum that is our life.
Every one of Jess Walters' messed-up and enjoyable characters' lives has a purpose: sometimes to their detriment, sometimes to their glory.
I've complained before about books that bring up other formats in the story arc that the reader never sees. Like in Snow, the narrator is a poet, but the reader never experiences a single poem (just an uninteresting diagram of poetry in the shape of a snowflake). This book mentions a play, a movie script, and a WW2 biography. And eventually each format is naturally entwined into the plot line. The other formats add a lot to the story arc and they are just as entertaining (read in: fabulously ridiculous!) as the main story.
One of our members mentioned the care the author took to use font and style choices appropriate to the time in which the play, script, and novel would have been written. For instance, the WW2 novel was in very blunt typewriter font - appropriate for a novel that was written in 1942.
The only criticism that was brought up was the scene with Valeria cursing Michael Deane over the water. Her reasons for cursing Michael weren't clear. I believe as far as the reader knows, the two characters had never interacted. ...more
I was worried at the beginning that this book would be just depressing hit after depressing hit. And it was. But Carol Rifka Brown balances the heartache with honest, tender, beautiful moments that don't feel manipulative. They feel like a family truly wrestling with life.
This book was very nostalgic. For anyone that lived through the 1980s, you'll go back to the terror and paranoia of that time regarding the disease. The scene when Danni freaks out over Greta's use of the Chapstick reminded me of all the rumors that were spread on how people were contracting the disease. And when the book announced the invention of AZT, I was reminded of how far we've come. Brown handles these complicated situations with a deft hand and successfully turns this horrible time in history into a book that celebrates life, love, and the necessary awkwardness of our teenage years. Speaking of which, June's awkward and self-conscious teenage years at play pushes the events of the novel genuinely.
As a book group, we mostly revisited the moments in the book that rang true with us. We talked straight for 2 hours, which is rare for a book that all of us liked. Usually when we all like a book, the conversation peters out a half an hour in and we move on. But we wanted to linger with the characters a little longer.
One of the book group members said he was apprehensive about the book because he didn't want to read "another AIDS book." I agreed; not because the stories aren't important, just that there are so many of them now and hindsight is 20/20. This book is not another AIDS book. June's POV expands the narration beyond the disease and examines its effects on the people left, the people living now.
Even the peripheral characters (Mr. Elbus, Ben, Greta) were given unexpected depth in the small amount of space they were given. Other complications in the character's lives are hinted at and written in a way that elevated the story's tension.
We discussed whether we thought the narration was written from the standpoint of June as an adult, or from the standpoint of June as a slightly older teenager. Her heartache and guilt felt very immediate. But that kind of emotion lingers in the body a while. So, I believe there's no answer there.
Then, we shared our ideas of the significance of the title of the book. Each of us that shared had a different take on its meaning. That's the sign of a good title.
I can't express enough how important I believe this book to be. I believe it will be a key source for people who didn't live through the onset of HIV/AIDS to understand the world at that time. I think it will be a long time before I read it again because it was such an emotionally taxing read, but June's realization that her perception of her perfect Uncle Finn was actually the culmination of Finn and Toby's life together will stay with me for a very long time. I'm tearing up just typing about it.
I don't think it's a book for everyone, but the themes of this book aligned for me personally and I really enjoyed it. The effects of creativity on peI don't think it's a book for everyone, but the themes of this book aligned for me personally and I really enjoyed it. The effects of creativity on people's lives; both pretty and ugly. Bad parenting skills. The meaning of home. Recognizing avoidance in one's every day life. Heavy stuff.
There's a lot of quirk out there and I'm a fan of most of it (see review of Geek Love, for Pete's sake.) Quirk, though, can get annoying pretty fast (Zoe Deschanel). The quirk in this book feels justified, mostly because the plot revolves around 2 people trying to see past it.
Quick summary: Performance artist parents bring their two children into their art to the detriment of their relationship.
SPOILERS AHOY! ******************
So, the themes, the themes! My favorite aspect of this book are the conflicting emotions Annie and Buster experience after their parents disappear. Do they or do they not want to find them? Other pieces of quirk could have made this conflict ridiculous and over-the-top. But Kevin Wilson keeps it real. There are very true emotions in this book. And I think most people will be able to identify with the love/hate relationship they have fostered with the misguided, imperfect people they call their parents.
This story also took me back to my mid-twenties when I was just starting to figure out who I was and what I wanted (a process that continues). Bad decisions and drinking may or may not have been involved. Returning to bad relationships were definitely involved. To add parents that used me as a prop for my entire childhood would have complicated these situations to a point that I don't care to speculate. The author, in my opinion, does a fine job of making his main characters wobbly in their age, but still grounded enough to be a counterpoint to the wacko parents.
Kevin Wilson also does a good job incorporating the up-side of being raised by parents who constantly stuck you in difficult situations and left you to figure out how to get out of them for yourself. Annie's career choice makes perfect sense here, where in other stories it would have leaned more in my mind toward fantasy.
The artistic sensibility in this book seems genuine. A few of the performance pieces are maddening. I wish I'd thought of them. Also, Camille's paintings are AMAZING. I wish someone would paint them. Or maybe I don't because they're pretty upsetting. I tell you what though; even now I can sit here and vividly imagine at least 3 of them. Inspiring. Unforgettable....more
Edge-of-my-seat reading. So much unbelievable stuff happened in this book. Absolutely no spoilers in this review. I hope people don't wait for seasonEdge-of-my-seat reading. So much unbelievable stuff happened in this book. Absolutely no spoilers in this review. I hope people don't wait for season three of the HBO series to read this book. It's one of those unfolding stories that can only be captured in writing. Everyone tells me that the rest of the series disappoints. I don't know if that's true yet; but the build-up to this book was totally worth it....more
Most of the book group agreed that the first 2 or 3 chapters are hard to get through. There's not a lot of explication to the world George R. R. MartiMost of the book group agreed that the first 2 or 3 chapters are hard to get through. There's not a lot of explication to the world George R. R. Martin creates, he just flings you into the center of the action. So in the first few chapters, especially the prologue, the reader is just forced to go along for the ride. That was perfect for me as a non-scifi/fantasy reader. I needed the author to get me to submit to the ride, otherwise my brainz would just go through the chapters pointing out the implausibilities. "Acceptance, not rebuttal" was my mantra throughout reading this book.
***SPOILERS You have been warned***
The prologue was my book group's first point of disagreement. Some of the group thought it was confusing and unnecessary. "What's the point of it when the first three characters we meet die in 5 pages?" Others thought the point was to give the reader a broader sense of the supernatural that folds into the plot later on. The reader also gets the sense from the prologue that there are no characters exempt from bad endings simply because they've narrated a few chapters.
Our second discussion was over the amount of characters and the inconsistency of development for them. Some of the book group participants were overwhelmed, wishing the legend of characters was at the front of the book instead of the end of the book (in our versions at least). I personally figured that the point of all the people and titles was to develop a sense of politics. So I chose not to focus so much on exactly who did what. I found that worked - the author seemed to place emphasis on the happenings where the particular players were crucial to later story lines.
A sign of excellent writing to me is an author that can juggle multiple story lines and scads of characters succinctly. I had no problem keeping track of what was happening or the character's motivations after the narrative baton was handed to each of the several main characters. The characters that Martin focuses on are almost all so interesting and distinct that they pretty much shouted out to me all the way through the book "LOOK AT ME!" Even the characters who are stifled by their youth and generally unlikeable (you'll know who I'm talking about if you read the book) have a definite role to play in the upcoming events of the book. It didn't feel like Martin was slacking in his assignations of those characters - he thought through how that character's personality needed to be before and after major events in order to fully propel the story line for everyone else. Extremely good writing there. Bonus: Tyrion Lannister is one of the best characters I've read in a long long time.
Someone in the book group mentioned that they loathed the Daenerys chapters. And another member countered that those chapters were her favorite. I personally enjoyed them. They brought an outsiders perspective to the suffocating wars of the kingdom. The Dothraki provided a "savage" race that I'm sure mirrors how different world cultures viewed each other as ignorant heathens. The book shifted in tone when Daenerys realized the imperfections of her brother and took control of her unrequited monarchy. We discussed the very goddess-like feel to her character after that, especially with the book's last image of her.
We didn't get the chance to talk about it in group, but I liked the steps Martin took to make these characters accessible to the reader. The narrative shifts were clever in giving the reader an opportunity to see all sides of an issue, especially when we learn Daenerys' knights backstory. The names he chose for the most part are either familiar names or slight variations: Joffrey, Eddard, Caitlan, Brandon, Robb, Jeyne, Theon. None of this ultra-creative naming that makes the reader stop to try to figure out pronunciations (or is that just me that's annoyed by that?). The imaginative differences between the worlds are slight but significant: Maester for Physician, direwolf for wolf.
All in all, REALLY good stuff. I can see why several Borders customers and employees told me to start with this series to introduce me to the SciFi/Fantasy genre. I'm really glad I [finally] picked it up.
We brought up the new HBO series based on the books several times. It seems very loyal to the first book, so far. The castings all fit well for those of us who've seen it. As I am not one who has seen it yet, I'll stop there.
Kick-you-in-your-teeth and leave-you-crying-on-the-floor good.
I haven't read a book that I couldn't put down in a very long time. When I first starteKick-you-in-your-teeth and leave-you-crying-on-the-floor good.
I haven't read a book that I couldn't put down in a very long time. When I first started reading the book I thought to myself, "Why would I want to invest time in this topic?" (Some of the book group members picked it up without knowing what the premise of the story is, so I don't want to ruin anything here.) But I'm very glad I did. Emma Donoghue turns a story we've heard on the news on its ear by telling it from the point of view of a 5-year old boy. The major themes of the story include the definition of living a normal life, how extreme circumstances affect humans and the role media plays in traumatic experiences. Highly recommended on my part.
There wasn't total agreement about this book in the group. One criticism was that the narration was limited both style-wise and by subject matter. I admit that when I first started reading the book it took me a chapter or so to understand Jack's way of communicating in the book. I thought I would not be able to read an entire novel written that way. When I started noticing clever things about the way the author wrote Jack and overcame the limitations of such a young narrator, I found my groove....more
I wanted to remember some of the lines from this book so I wrote them in my journal. I haven't read anything in a while that has made me ache. The losI wanted to remember some of the lines from this book so I wrote them in my journal. I haven't read anything in a while that has made me ache. The loss in this book and the admiration the narrators have for the central figure is overwhelming as you read it. The author has obviously lost someone special and has captured that loss on paper. Just gorgeously written, especially the chapters titled Miro, Miro on the Wall and Centavos.
SPOILERS AHOY AHOY
To describe this book would be misleading. It is a tale of interwoven characters who don't know how they connect, each chapter is written from a different point of view, and there's some play with the chronology of the plot. Pretty standard fiction fare nowadays. Let the Great World Spin feels different to me because it executes a Maris-on-Frasier relationship. We never hear from Maris or McCann's character Corrigan directly, but we get a fully fleshed out character from hearsay. In Corrigan's case, he just keeps getting more and more wholesome and that wholesomeness radiates through the other characters in the novel. That delicate kind of wholesome that isn't preachy or judgmental.
To me, the character Corrigan illustrates the reason I dislike Oprah. He felt no need to wear his good deeds like a medallion - he did not do the tremendously kind things he did for his own self-esteem or for an audience. He did them because it was right. The fact that the reader learns of Corrie's philanthropy is solely because we hear it from other characters. He would never tell us these things if he were to narrate. He was a reminder to people who most needed reminding that there is still good in the world.
Similarities can easily be drawn between him and the unnamed tightrope walker. I would like to write about the tightrope walker and Corrie's differences. We are told the tightrope walker's intentions for walking out between the Twin Towers were because the Towers were there to be walked between. Since this stunt took place before reality tv shows and 24 hour news channels, I can somewhat believe it. But somewhere in there he must have done it for notoriety, don't we all have some wish to be remembered, or at least have our 15 minutes of fame? That's the main difference to me between the tightrope walker and Corrie.
The only reason this book didn't get a 5 star from me is because of the phreakers chapter. I'm still wrapping my head around it. I wouldn't say it was a mismatch to the rest of the book; but its reason for being included isn't as obvious. Communication and distance are definite themes of the novel. The beginnings of the internet seem like a good locale for that discussion - but the rest of the book was so tightly written; much more obvious in its motives. Plus there was always a tie in to other characters of the novel somehow in other chapters. Maybe I should read it again, because I don't think any of the people the phreakers got a hold of tied in....more
bizarre that I would find myself identifying with the isolation of a serial killer like Tom Ripley. I suppose that's the mark of an amazing writer. Ibizarre that I would find myself identifying with the isolation of a serial killer like Tom Ripley. I suppose that's the mark of an amazing writer. I can't wait to get the rest of Ripley's tome and dig in! Although I'm told The Talented is the best of the bunch. Just like Hannibal Lechter, he is an elegant murderer....more
Put simply: I love words. This book takes a silly and sometime self-effacing take on the study of words and the people most likely to partake in suchPut simply: I love words. This book takes a silly and sometime self-effacing take on the study of words and the people most likely to partake in such endeavors. I know this book isn't for everyone, but it was in every way for me....more
Fantastic book! The most inventive plot I've read in a long long time.
Ruff deals with the multiple personality disorders of two main characters in theFantastic book! The most inventive plot I've read in a long long time.
Ruff deals with the multiple personality disorders of two main characters in the least confusing, most fascinating way. I was never thrown about who was doing what (unless I was supposed to be). I didn't have to make a little flow chart to keep track of personalities like I thought I would have (not something I can say for the characters in The Known World) and I found myself having fun guessing which personality committed different acts. I blew through this book in a couple days and then went back to read parts of it again. Ruff is extremely talented for having pulled this book off so well. It does get a little unnecesarily expository and Agatha Christie at the end there. But its a tremendous read.
Holy cow. I just finished, and although a little girl that I was checking out at the store the day after the book came out let it slip tSpoilers ahoy!
Holy cow. I just finished, and although a little girl that I was checking out at the store the day after the book came out let it slip that "He ends up with Ginny in the end", I still loved every moment I was reading it. I had heard quite a few people say they were satisfied with the ending and my first thought was "How could you be? She has so much to explain and tie up and the book is only 759 pages!" And I must say I am satisfied, even though she excuses some of the plot away by giving Harry and Dumbeldore that chapter at Kings Crossing and Dumbeldore postulates all the ifs in the story. The formula of the Harry Potter book withstands! Review of the last book; introduction of new magical terms; mystery mystery mystery building up to climax and then three chapters of exposition at the end. Beautiful.
So who else thinks she set up her next series well with the idea that someone comes to take the Elder Wand out of Harry's hands thereby starting another war?
On my second reading:
I got alot more out of it this time. I wasn't in a hurry to read it so no one would spoil it for me. I read it slowly and pondered some of the tie ins from previous books. I actually put the book down for a week so I could go back to Order of the Phoenix and read some passages there. I am very confident this series is one of the classics of our lifetime....more
I love me some "How traveling changed my life" stories. In this one, a young missionary travels to Singapore and learns the hard way the effects of beI love me some "How traveling changed my life" stories. In this one, a young missionary travels to Singapore and learns the hard way the effects of being irresponsible with love. Told in a sweeping manner that sometimes rides the line between novel and travel narrative, John Dalton really nailed what I experienced traveling in foreign countries as a college student: the sense of wonder and possibility fueled by the reality of being naive about the world and how it works. ...more
Considering these stories were written by a very religious southern woman in the 50's and 60's, I was amazed at where she took her characters and theConsidering these stories were written by a very religious southern woman in the 50's and 60's, I was amazed at where she took her characters and the morality she expressed through her plotlines. She's not preachy or heavy handed with her points; She simply takes the reins of a moral situation and passionately shows the reader what would happen to the world if people didn't behave nicely to one another.
That is the reason why whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, Flannery O'Connor is the first name that pops up....more
The title has it right: its the perfect book for a dreamer. Think Tim Burton's Big Fish crossing with an Andrew Carnegie biography and you got a veryThe title has it right: its the perfect book for a dreamer. Think Tim Burton's Big Fish crossing with an Andrew Carnegie biography and you got a very accurate description of whats in store if you read this book.
Surprising, funny, sweet and an interesting look at the life of a self made man. I couldn't put it down. And I'm just waiting for Tim Burton to make this into a movie....more
I am serious when I tell you that Marjorie Sharmat predicted my life.
I have a Big Hex-ish cat. I don't like girls (in that way). And I am very good aI am serious when I tell you that Marjorie Sharmat predicted my life.
I have a Big Hex-ish cat. I don't like girls (in that way). And I am very good at figuring out household descrepancies using my basic logic skills. I even looked A LOT like Nate the great when I was 7 or 8.
The only thing that didn't stick was the hat....more
easily the best of ian mcewan's work. He does ambiguous relationships perfectly. And this story line made me appreciate the fine line between sane andeasily the best of ian mcewan's work. He does ambiguous relationships perfectly. And this story line made me appreciate the fine line between sane and insane....more
Katherine Dunn has a lot of interesting things to say about how love can be a type of monetary system and how genetics can make you rich. This book isKatherine Dunn has a lot of interesting things to say about how love can be a type of monetary system and how genetics can make you rich. This book is odd and over the top in all the right ways. A great satire of family dynamics and sibling rivalry....more
Taking place in Pittsburgh in the late 80s, a socially awkward kid starts high school as a freshman. Charlie is adopted into a circle of friends who hTaking place in Pittsburgh in the late 80s, a socially awkward kid starts high school as a freshman. Charlie is adopted into a circle of friends who have some troubles, but keep each other in check for the most part. There's the shared iconic song the group has latched onto, there's the monthly performances of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to attend, there's the awkward and random hooking up of various people in the group. I had a similar circle of friends in high school.
I don't relate to the events that take place in the novel. But, I think anyone who has ever been a teenager will see something of themselves in Patrick, Charlie, or Sam. SPOILERS START NOW!
I relate to Patrick the most. He is the embodiment of the kind of teenager I wish I'd been: brave, bold, with a certain amount of self confidence. The scene in the cafeteria where he confronts the boy he's been seeing in front of the baseball team is exactly what I mean. To Patrick, the important part was acknowledging that he had been there when Bobby needed him. To Bobby, Patrick was the embodiment of the thing he couldn't acknowledge about himself. Who hasn't had to stand up for themselves in a similar way during a relationship?
The mood and tone of the story complements the setting. Mixed tapes, teenage anthems, and senior skip day pranks with a rumble of teenage angst underneath. How we all have fantastic memories of that time in our lives even when we know now that we were miserable. The movie is fantastic too. Highly recommended. Ezra Miller was the perfect Patrick....more
Elizabeth McCracken says so much about the different forms love can take. The main character's journey through all of it stays true to her personalityElizabeth McCracken says so much about the different forms love can take. The main character's journey through all of it stays true to her personality but affects her in heartbreaking ways. The plot is quiet and mousy, sweet and unflinchingly true....more
Forget the romantical mini-series. This is probably my favorite book in a couple years. One of the hardest things to do in fiction writing is to castForget the romantical mini-series. This is probably my favorite book in a couple years. One of the hardest things to do in fiction writing is to cast a role of characters in a story and manage to flush out their personalities. I seriously cried three times when three different characters moved on from the pages of the story. I found myself often involved in the character's lives and smiling at the book saying to myself "That is just like him." In a nutshell, its the story of a couple retired Texas rangers - military personel whose mission was to patrol the Mexican border - starting over again by driving cattle to the promised land, Montana. They meet bandits, Indians, Indian bandits and bandit snakes along the way. Yes, there are love stories in it, but they are very subtle and not at all cliche. If you haven't read this book, read it next thing. Book group doesn't meet about the book for a couple weeks and I haven't formed all of my opinions about the book, but I'll come back to this and add more....more
I dare you to read this book and not be changed by it. ----------------------------- Above was my review after the third time I read this book. I'd gueI dare you to read this book and not be changed by it. ----------------------------- Above was my review after the third time I read this book. I'd guess that was in 2006. The first time I read this book I was 17 and I was deeply moved by the story's comments on race and innocence. I read the book again when I was 21. I was struck most in that reading by how Harper Lee infused humor into the tale. My reading in 2006 had me ruminating on its theme of poverty. This last reading had me seeing things through Atticus and Heck Tate's and Miss Maudie's eyes. I especially reframed my ideas about Alexandra, Atticus's uptight sister. I hated her in all three of my previous readings, but I saw her motivations more clearly this time. Her love for her brother, her efforts to give his household more structure, her need to pick up and move on.
The book group was unsurprisingly raving about the book. It is so tightly written; we spent quite a bit of time discussing the effects of a good editor on a story and how that symbiosis between author and editor is all but lost in the current age of self-publishing. Many of us talked about how we had had to read this book in high school and didn't really get it then. A few of us resented it for being crammed down our throats as a student. But all that attended got over that within the first few chapters.
That scene where Scout stands on the porch of the jailhouse and address Mr. Cunningham has got to be one of the most important scenes in literature. I know exactly where that scene is in the book because the pages are wrinkly from...water.
We talked a bit about the counterpoint that this is another example of white people coming to the rescue of a black person. I can see that angle, but I think Harper Lee was smart in her telling of the novel. She had important things to say at a time when Civil Rights were just coming to a head. Atticus Finch was the perfect loudspeaker to get at the people who needed to hear the message the most. She treated the African Americans in the novel with respect. She gave them backstories and community with the chapters at Tom Robinson's house and at Calpurnia's church. Those last two sentences should be a given, but at the time there were very few novels in white peoples' hands that would pass the race version of the Bechdel test.
To Kill a Mockingbird is still my favorite book. Period. A lot of readers have a hard time answering that question; I am not one of them. We couldn't get away without discussing Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee's recently released sequel to TKAM. I am not interested. I don't want anything to mar what I consider to be a perfect novel. ...more