I think I have found a new favorite author--I couldn't put this book down. It is the story of a Native American woman who was raped on or near the res...moreI think I have found a new favorite author--I couldn't put this book down. It is the story of a Native American woman who was raped on or near the reservation by a non-Native person (the location becomes important) and it is told through the recollections of her son Joe who was 13 at the time of the attack. Erdrich's description of Geraldine's devastation are wrenchingly true to life as are the helplessness of her husband and her son as they try to both give her time and pull her back into life. The characters are beautifully created and they are woven through one another's lives in surprising ways. While the book is quite sad, there are moments of light and humor that break through as Joe shares the quest of finding his mother's rapist with his friends--adolescent boys being adolescent boys. Because of Erdrich's incredible writing style, the humor doesn't make the reader think that she's trying too hard to lighten an otherwise emotionally heavy novel, it works well as these boys and a community try to make sense of what has happened, especially because tribal law is only able to go so far even when the rapist is known.
I am glad that I happened to see a recommendation to read The Plague of Doves before I read The Round House. It isn't necessary because the second book certainly stands on it's own. However, by reading The Plague of Doves first, the reader has the background stories of Mooshum, Clemence and Edward, and the love story of Geraldine and her husband Bazil Coutts. Mooshum is an unforgettable character in both novels and I really enjoyed reading about him and hearing his stories. (less)
I just picked this up and re-read it and was reminded just how fabulous it is. It's the story of the Trueba family through several generations as comp...moreI just picked this up and re-read it and was reminded just how fabulous it is. It's the story of the Trueba family through several generations as compiled by Alba, the grand-daughter of the family patriarch and matriarch, Esteban and Clara Trueba. As always in Allende's novels, there is a wonderful cast of incredible women each with her own strengths, flaws, etc. The novel not only covers the story of this remarkable family, but the overthrow of Salvador Allende from the presidency of Chile in 1971 and the beginning of Pinochet's dictatorship. It amazed me yet again that this is the first novel that Isabel Allende wrote because it is fantastic. (less)
I really enjoyed this book! The novel is told by three different characters, with a surprise character thrown in at the end. The murder of a white fam...moreI really enjoyed this book! The novel is told by three different characters, with a surprise character thrown in at the end. The murder of a white family has occurred in a small North Dakota town and innocent Chippewa men are hanged for it. The three narrators all describe their own relationship to this event, whether they were around during the time it happened or found out about it later when the town is still coping with the aftermath and the inter-relatedness of people in small communities. Through one of the narrators, Evelina, the reader is introduced to her grandfather Mooshum who is central to this entire story and a repository of the tribal history and also of this event in the town history. Mooshum is a great character, complicated and, at times, hilarious.
I really look forward to reading more of Erdrich's books.(less)
I enjoyed this book though it was bit dated. It's the story of a retired judge who must make some very difficult moral decisions to protect his ward a...moreI enjoyed this book though it was bit dated. It's the story of a retired judge who must make some very difficult moral decisions to protect his ward and her husband. I found it particularly interesting because the judge's nemesis, a man named Severidge, knows that he is empty of the ability to be ethical or moral, but he is fascinated with judge's ability to hold fast. There is something of a Paradise Lost allegory that is made clear at the end.
I am somewhat ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, Allende spent a great deal of time developing the characters which is what she does best. I...moreI am somewhat ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, Allende spent a great deal of time developing the characters which is what she does best. I actually enjoyed the charcters very much though some of their situations were a bit on the unbelievable side. On the other hand, it's pretty formulaic and it wasn't much of a surprise who the serial killer was. In addition, the book was a bit too long--I think it could have been edited a bit and maybe then it wouldn't have seemed to drag at times.
It's pretty rare that I read murder mysteries, so I don't really have much room for comparison of this novel to other books in its' genre. I only read this one because I love the author and was able to hear her speak here in town as the book was released.
I do admire the fact that Allende decided to try something new and for a first effort it's not bad.(less)
I am torn with the star rating--the book is really around a 3.5, but that's not an option. For the most part I enjoyed this book, but it has some flaw...moreI am torn with the star rating--the book is really around a 3.5, but that's not an option. For the most part I enjoyed this book, but it has some flaws as well. It's my understanding that Tracy Chevalier spent some time here in Ohio doing research, but even so there were some details that I thought she should have checked on.
The story is about Honor Bright, a young woman who moves to the U.S. from England because her sister is also moving in order to get married and Honor decides to go with her. A lot of things happen and Honor ends up alone in Ohio and becomes part of the Underground Railroad. Because of all the change and loss she experiences, Honor ends up having to sort out what kind of life she really wants to have. This part of the story rings true, though I'm not convinced that a person like Honor wouldn't have simply turned around and headed back to England. (Chevalier does give a reason for Honor's decision not to return, severe seasickness, but I didn't think it rang true.)
When sorting out her life, Honor ends up taking the advice of two African American women, Mrs. Reed, who runs a station on the Underground Railroad and Viginnie, a runaway. This is were I think that the narrative gets tricky in the hands of a white author. The way the narrative is written, it recalls the theme of the "magical black woman" who is there to guide the unhappy, needy white woman to her own destiny, while creating black characters that are flat and only necessary as far as they are helpful to a lost, needy white woman. I would imagine that with Mrs. Reed putting her life in danger to assist runaways and Virginnie putting her life in danger to rescue her children from slavery and then get them back to Canada (the Fugitive Slave Law is passed early in the book) have bigger things to worry about than whether or not Honor should go back to her husband.
The novel was compelling and I liked the characters and some of the plot twists. I have to say that I enjoyed Chevaliers Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn much better.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's about 19-year-old Maya who is raised by her grandparents until she is in high school. Her beloved grandfather, wh...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's about 19-year-old Maya who is raised by her grandparents until she is in high school. Her beloved grandfather, whom she calls "Popo" dies when she is in high school and her life spins out of control. She is rescued by her grandmother "Nini" who does two things for her--1, she sends her to a small Chilean island off the coast of Chile called Chiloe and 2, she gives Maya a notebook to record her story which is actually the novel. The story goes back and forth between Maya's present time in Chiloe and her past when her life careened out of control.
What makes this story work is Isabel Allende's gift for storytelling. Having worked with people in recovery from alcohol and drugs, I think that Maya's recovery goes along a bit too smoothly, but because of Allende's wonderful description of the characters and the landscape which helps to heal Maya, it isn't beyond belief. The book is also a bit awkward as Maya discovers Manuel's past which seems to be tacked on at the end. But again, it doesn't disrupt the narrative in a way that the reader feels blindsided and, because Manuel is a great character, I was glad to have his story filled out.
What a great book with great characters. Still love Isabel Allende!
Love, love, love Isabel Allende. This one has started out pretty well.(less)
This book has what seemed to me to be some odd flaws, but in spite of this, it was really a great read. It is mostly about a character named Violet wh...moreThis book has what seemed to me to be some odd flaws, but in spite of this, it was really a great read. It is mostly about a character named Violet who was half Chinese and half American and lived in Shanghai in the beginning of the 20th century. Violet was raised in a Courtesan house and her mother was the owner. Through a friends betrayal of her mother, Violet ends up becoming a courtesan herself which leads to the rest of her life's stories, some of them absolutely heartbreaking and some of them pretty incredible.
One of the main themes of this novel is culture, both the one we are born into and the one(s) we inherit. Violet struggles through most of the novel to understand what it means to be Chinese and American living in Shanghai. Tan shows great insight and sensitivity in creating this struggle and does not give the reader, or Violet, easy answers as to who she is and what that means for her life struggles.
Another important theme, which is true of many of Tan's novels, is the relationship between mother and daughter. Again, Tan successfully captures the complexity of this relationship, both with our biological mothers and the adopted ones we pick up along the way. The women in this novel are complicated, imperfect and wonderful as they learn about themselves and one another and forge relationships that will get them through their lives.
I absolutely love the end of this novel. While it can in many ways be categorized as "happy", it is a complicated happiness which is very human, vulnerable, imperfect and natural to the characters that Tan created in this novel. I would love for Amy Tan to think about how she might be able to write a novel about Flora, Violet's daughter. Even though she is almost an "off stage" character for much of the novel, she is gritty and interesting and it would be good to read more about her.
There are a couple of things that I thought were a bit awkward. The first was the placement of the story of Violet's mother Lucia at the end of the novel. It felt like Violet was finally beginning to triumph, literally crossing a mountain, and the reader is dropped down into Lucia's story. I wish that her story had been better interspersed within the larger novel.
The second thing that was a bit awkward was Violet's journey to the Valley of Amazement. I am still not sure what the purpose of this was and I wasn't really able to quite believe that Violet made the choices she did to get there. I felt that the character was a lot more savvy by that time in the novel and wouldn't have necessarily made that decision.
I would still recommend this book even with it's flaws. The characters are wonderful and the culture they must survive in was fascinating. (less)
I really enjoyed this book, which is easily read in one sitting. It's about an old Cuban fisherman who catches the fish of a lifetime. Unfortunately,...moreI really enjoyed this book, which is easily read in one sitting. It's about an old Cuban fisherman who catches the fish of a lifetime. Unfortunately, he is alone in the open sea and must cope with the ocean and its' rules and wildlife. I found the old man, Santiago, fascinating as he thinks about his respect for and knowledge of the ocean and of his love for this beautiful fish, a marlin, that he knows he will kill anyway. It will be something that I will read again just to revisit the excellent attention to detail that Hemingway wrote into the story.(less)
This was a great summer read. The basic plot is fairly simple--a young girl comes to live with her grandfather in a small southern town because her mo...moreThis was a great summer read. The basic plot is fairly simple--a young girl comes to live with her grandfather in a small southern town because her mother has died. She has to navigate her mother's past and her own budding romance with a young man from the town who can't come out at night due to a family secret. The next door neighbor is also a major character who is trying to put the pieces of her past together as well.
Fairly predictable ending, but it didn't seem to matter. The characters were enjoyable with a little bit of magic thrown in. This would be a great book for the beach or a lazy summer evening. (less)
This book is as excellent as the first; Jennifer Worth was a gifted storyteller. There are fewer stories of midwifery in this book because it is focus...moreThis book is as excellent as the first; Jennifer Worth was a gifted storyteller. There are fewer stories of midwifery in this book because it is focused on the history and legacy of the English workhouses and the lives of some of the people that Worth met who had lived in them. I could not put the book down.(less)