I liked this book a lot.......until I started reaching the end. So there goes a star. I disliked the end because not one calamity but eight follow oneI liked this book a lot.......until I started reaching the end. So there goes a star. I disliked the end because not one calamity but eight follow one after another! You lose touch with reality. Sure, each of these things could have happened but probably not all of them. (view spoiler)[ A baby is born out in the bush without any aid. The baby is blind. The baby is lost. There is a huge fire. There is gun chase and a landslide. All money is gone, and there is no hope of ever getting employment since the labor-exchange is closed. Of course there is hunger. The immigrant couple’s existence is on the level of a dog’s. Instead of heaping one catastrophe on top of another, it would have been enough if the child had been born out in the bush and the Mexican couple had simply returned to Mexico! That would have been bad enough. (hide spoiler)]
But what did I like? And I did like most of the book very much. This book is about illegal Mexican immigrants in a suburb to Los Angeles, probably in the 21st Century. They are eking out an existence. Alongside the illegal immigrant couple is another couple, two wealthy Americans living in an exclusive walled-in community. He is a nature writer, she a real-estate agent of exclusive homes. Both are liberals, one child, dogs and of course a swimming pool. You get the picture. You compare the "haves" and the "have-nots". The beauty of the book is that you understand both and you watch the tension mount between the two. You cannot help but wonder if you too would get irrational. Do you protect what you have worked hard to achieve? Or are you compassionate and give and give and give…. and loose as a consequence? I loved this book for its ability to make me understand both sides. You are right there, and you are wondering how you would act given such circumstances. You watch as fissures creep into the wealthy couple's relationship.
The audiobook is narrated by the author himself. He reads quickly, but it is not hard to follow. Also, through the tempo, suspense increases, and that goes overboard occasionally.
I do recommend this book, regardless of the ridiculous ending, because you are there, in another person's shoes. You will come to question if your own praiseworthy intentions and behavior might falter. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I would recommend this book to those of you who -want to try Mario Puzo, but don't know which of his books to start with. -are interested in Italian immI would recommend this book to those of you who -want to try Mario Puzo, but don't know which of his books to start with. -are interested in Italian immigrant life during the Depression. -like books about complicated family relationships.
In the introduction to the book we are told that it is this book that the author himself thought was his best. It is about his mother. He wrote The Godfather later. That one he wrote to be “a bestseller”; he had to support his family.
The book follows one Italian immigrant family through the Depression up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. They live in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, home to the poor and working-class Italian and Irish American immigrants. The language is crude and life is tough; you are happy if you simply survive. The mother, the star role of the family does survive. Just surviving makes her worthy of the title "the fortunate pilgrim", the book's title. Happy? Not necessarily. She has two husbands and six children. There are three deaths. By the book's end you know the six children. I particularly liked how the personalities of the six children were so different. You follow them to adulthood. By the book's end I felt empathy for the mother too. She was such a strong, determined woman that it wasn't until the end that I felt she needed my sympathy. Then what happens hits home. I need to feel empathy for the characters in a story. Not in the middle, but only by the book's end, did I feel such empathy. The life of this family felt genuine through and through, and moments of sunlight are shown too.
You cannot read a book about Italians that skirts the issue of the Mafia. Why is it so hard not to fall into the trap of the Mafia? One of the sons succumbs. Why? How? You understand because you understand the life of the mother and her six kids and that help was not available from legal venues.
I enjoy immigrant stories where the characters feel they are making something of their lives by moving rather than bemoaning what they have lost.
A word of warning: the language is filthy...but genuine. Do you want it cleaned up for your ears? Then you better pick another book.
I really disliked the narration of the audiobook by John Kenneth. Over-dramatized. Too emotional. His Italian accent made it difficult for me to hear the name of the person speaking. ...more
First impression: There is beauty in the words. You feel the North Korean war refugee's aloofness in his new country, Brazil. The distance he feels anFirst impression: There is beauty in the words. You feel the North Korean war refugee's aloofness in his new country, Brazil. The distance he feels and his reticence is palpable. Narration by the author adds to the lines' impact. A blanket of quiet overlays the story.
People can talk without words. What is not said can speak louder than what is said. And what a person does doesn’t always reflect what they are really saying. (view spoiler)[When Santi returns after Kiyoshi’s death and steals and slashes the dummy, he doesn’t return to steal. He doesn’t return to destroy. He returns because he is devastated by Kiyoshi’s death! (hide spoiler)]This book captures that. It draws a world of silence and solitude that does speak and does convey a message. You watch what happens. You feel the atmosphere. There is a distance to all that happens and to the characters themselves. The manner in which this is achieved is artistically done. Beautiful rather than boring. You are drawn in. Slowly, slowly this North Korean war refugee assimilates and comes to feel at home in his new country, in an unnamed village in Brazil. S-l-o-w-l-y the past recedes, the memories blur and he melts into a new life. You read this book to feel his dislocation, the alienation of one who leaves one country for another. Leaving both horrible memories and good memories, sort of like stapling up picture upon picture until the pictures at the bottom aren’t gone but are superseded by others that are newer, stronger, more vibrant. You cannot just rip out those pictures at the bottom, can you?
Is the ending realistic? No, maybe not, but I am OK with that. You do not read this book to follow the plot line from A to Z. Neither does the story follow a chronological order. Memories come and go, and that is how you learn of the past
An atmospheric novel, to be read to understand how it is to be completely alone in a new world. You never start from scratch, since we all have our own pasts. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Where are we today at the beginning of the 21st Century? Where are we headed? I have been reading books that focus on ethnic cleansing and genocide. IWhere are we today at the beginning of the 21st Century? Where are we headed? I have been reading books that focus on ethnic cleansing and genocide. It seems to me there is more and more of this with each year that passes. What does this say about the way the world is run today? How do different books tackle these questions? When The Stars Fall To Earth was very good, albeit simple, but with an important message. It was fiction. It dealt with the problems that continue today in Darfur. I kept thinking, why did I like it so much even if it is simple and fictional, but I did! I liked it because it spoke of today's world and it spoke with clarity.
Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder is equally good. This one is biographical. The author lets Deo, a survivor of the Rwandan/Burundi genocide, speak of his experiences. This is non-fiction, but it too speaks with clarity and leaves an important message about the world we live in today. Is there hope? Yes, but the main message from both is that people of the 21st Century must keep themselves informed and must get involved.
Kidder’s book clearly explains both the Rwandan and Burundi genocides. Although they are interrelated and do share some similarities, there are differences too. In both countries poverty, malnutrition and lack of educational opportunities have led to the underlying problems. In both countries Hutus comprise the overwhelming majority of the population, but in Burundi the military and political power was transferred to the Tutsis by first the German and then the Belgian colonial authorities. In Rwanda Hutus were in power. Both countries became independent from Belgium in 1962, and in both countries Belgium failed to prepare the governments for a successful takeover of power. The ethnic differences have been reinforced by the colonial parties. In Rwanda there was a government of the majority fighting against a powerless minority. The Burundi genocide was a prolonged ethnic civil war by a minority government fighting against rebels of the majority.
The chapters flip between those focused on Deo’s personal experiences and the historical details of the war. In addition, Deo’s experiences do not follow a chronological order. I would have preferred that they had. Chronologically you start in the middle, when Deo has just gotten to the US in 1994. He had been in his third year of medical studies in Burundi when he fled from rampage of killings in Burundi to Rwanda, back to Burundi and then to NYC, an immigrant with neither English, money nor even a green card. He went from an inferno to another situation scarcely better, but he survived. Later in the book the author accompanies Deo back to Burundi and Rwanda. He also accompanies Deo to those places he lived in Harlem, the exact sites in Central Park, to Soho and to those who gave him a helping hand. The reader looks at how Deo dealt emotionally and intellectually with his experiences. It all would have been simpler had the events been presented chronologically. That is my one complaint with the book.
The audiobook is narrated by the author clearly, but without any special flair. I have no complaints about the narration.
I liked this book because it clearly explains the details of both the Rwandan and Burundi genocides. Deo comes to work with Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, about which the author has written another book: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. Here the focus of the book is set on what path we must follow into the future. This I liked too. That is why I picked up the book. Where will the future take us? ...more
I actually enjoyed listening to this. It was OK, but......
This is one of those books definitely improved by its narration, very well done by Sile BermI actually enjoyed listening to this. It was OK, but......
This is one of those books definitely improved by its narration, very well done by Sile Bermingham! Great Irish brogue, and the different women all sound unique. Still, when you look at the book as a whole, you are left rather flat. What does it give you? A "cute" telling of the Irish immigrant story in NYC. Not the early immigrants, but the ones that came in the 60s. Family life and friendship between workmates. What was the sandhog experience like? The job of the sandhog, digging the tunnels for the water pipes of NYC, that too. Half of the book is about the life of Irish gypsies, the "walking people" and life in rural Ireland. Sister relationships, and aging, serious accidents and who exactly is the true mother, the birth mother or the one who raises a child? All of this is covered - some parts flow better than others, but all these different parts are patchy. There is humor and sadness. The poignant end could have been improved. Was the part about (view spoiler)[ Alzheimer's (hide spoiler)] really necessary? You start in 2007, flip back to the past and then go forward to 2007. The book was OK, and certainly very well narrated.
I have chosen to read this book for two reasons. First of all I really liked Mary Beth Keane's Fever, so I have to read another by this talented author. Secondly, when I listened to the sample of this book by the author I both loved the narration by Sile Bermingham, with her wonderful Irish tone, and discovered it begins with a section about NYC sandhogs. Sandhogs is a term used for the Irish, Italian and West Indian immigrants that first dug the tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn. So.... I think illogically that the book may be similar to Colum McCann's This Side of Brightness, also about sandhogs! I loved that book, except for its stupid ending. I know this is all rather illogical; I will not get a a continuation of McCann's book, but still it might be good.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are two central themes to this book; it is both a love story and an in-depth look at what it is to be black, today, in America and in Nigeria. IThere are two central themes to this book; it is both a love story and an in-depth look at what it is to be black, today, in America and in Nigeria. It also looks at how it is to be young in today’s world – a world of computers and cellphones and blogs and, on a more general level, how people interrelate with each other.
Different readers will be drawn to different aspects of the novel. The love story did not draw me in. It begins with a “coming of age” attraction between two teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria. The story goes full circle and ends on the same note, back in Nigeria and back with these two, Obinze and Ifemelu. Will they find each other at the end? And if they do, at what cost to others? That this aspect of the novel did not attract me is not to say that it was poorly written, but only that my interests lay elsewhere, given my particular past experiences and age.
What did interest me is Adichie’s penetration of race, racial bigotry and inequality. Obinze and Ifemelu are separated. Ifemelu goes to the America with her aunt, but after 9/11 Obinze cannot get into America and immigrates to London. Political turmoil in Nigeria and the impossibility of getting a good education at home is what forces both abroad. Both experience how it is to be without family in a foreign country as an immigrant, Obinze an illegal immigrant. Ifemelu learns what it is to be an African Black in North America. Both flounder. The central themes remain love relationships and race.
As with all books it is the reader’s own experiences that influence how one perceives a book’s content. How do I compare my own immigrant experiences with those portrayed in the novel and why are they different? To what extent are blacks discriminated against in the US today in comparison to Europe? I look with admiration at the US and think how wonderful it is that Obama, a black could become president. That does say something, no matter how you twist or turn it. That Adichie isn’t satisfied, that she reveals to me, a non-black, the inequalities that still remain is only admirable. Through her characters you come to understand on a ground level the inequalities that remain. You understand on a personal level. One example: in all the women’s magazines there are article after article about what eye shadow works best for brown or blue or green eyes, but what if you have black eyes? There are full discussions of what to do with straight, wavy or curly hair, but where is there help for kinky hair? Yeah, there STILL isn’t total equality, total acceptance of all our differences. I like that the book made me more aware of what is to be black on a daily basis. There is also the difference of being a Black-American and the difference of being a Non-American Black. Being colored, Hispanic versus African versus Asian, are all different. A Black-American lives with the baggage of historical discrimination in the US.
Narration of the audiobook by Adjoa Andoh is excellent, albeit a bit difficult for those, like me, who are not accustomed to the many different black accents. I had to listen carefully. I am glad I had a chance to do this through this audiobook.
I believe how you will react to this book will be determined by the theme that most draws your attention. You may be enthralled by the love story or like me just interested in current racial and immigrant injustices. ...more
Currently free in the Kindle format. In France it is called Trois Femmes. Is this going to be a waste of time? I just made such a mistake. Do I do itCurrently free in the Kindle format. In France it is called Trois Femmes. Is this going to be a waste of time? I just made such a mistake. Do I do it all over again? I have three days to make up my mind....more