Room is the story of 5 year old Jack and his mother, told in Jack's voice. Ma was abducted 7 years earlier and has since then been held her captive in...moreRoom is the story of 5 year old Jack and his mother, told in Jack's voice. Ma was abducted 7 years earlier and has since then been held her captive in a sound-proofed storage shed behind her captor's house. She gave birth to Jack and raised him to the best of her abilities inside this 11x11 foot space. Jack and Ma live in a world that is comforting to him and full of fun things to do - running the "track" around their bed, playing with the "snake" made of egg shells, watching Dora on TV. She has educated him and told him stories that keep his imagination going. To Jack, there is their world and everything else is Outer Space. Their world is safe to him. When Old Nick visits at night, Jack is safely in Wardrobe hidden from his view. (Jack has turned every object into a proper noun, making it a character in his reality)
But of course, Jack's idyllic world is Ma's hell where she is trapped and tormented by her abductor/rapist and she continues to try to figure a way out. Every week night they scream and flash lights in hopes that someone might see them through the skylight. They do finally find a way out, and that is when I found myself really thinking about what I had been reading and to both question how Ma did things and how we tend to live our lives.
The author took quite a risk in telling the story from the perspective of a five year old, but she managed to make it work. Jack has innocence and intelligence. The story would not have worked as well if it was not told from his perspective. The reader has to be inside a five year old's head to understand his security in Room and the fear he faces in Outside. Being told of his discomfort wearing shoes, his inability to climb stairs, his belief in the stories Ma has told him would not be the same as getting it in Jack's voice.
For anyone on the lookout for good book club read, I would highly recommend this novel. (less)
I do not get the hype over this book and it makes me seriously question what makes a book a Pulitzer prize winner. I often thought of not finishing it...moreI do not get the hype over this book and it makes me seriously question what makes a book a Pulitzer prize winner. I often thought of not finishing it but convinced myself to plow through it. The main problem that I had with the book was that there didn't seem to be a plot, but rather, it was just a bunch of character descriptions in small town Maine - a slice of life if you will. Some people might enjoy that, but I'm not one of them. Many of the other reviews that I've seen talk about the symbolism of Russo's work - that is just something that I do not read for. When some action finally happened, it must have already been in the last 100 pages of a 500 page book.(less)
An entertaining read about a mother of three who moves from her home of Houston to Cambridge to help follow her husband's dream. Touches very close to...moreAn entertaining read about a mother of three who moves from her home of Houston to Cambridge to help follow her husband's dream. Touches very close to home about the difficulties of being a mom and wife and trying to make a life in a new city without any family around. Also, some important ideas about making sure to find time in your busy day to do things for yourself.(less)
Reading "Little Bee" was a waste of my time. I wanted to like it, I kept hoping that it would get better, but it actually got progressively worse. The...moreReading "Little Bee" was a waste of my time. I wanted to like it, I kept hoping that it would get better, but it actually got progressively worse. The characters managed to become more annoying as the pages got higher.
This was a book club selection and one of the frustrating things is that when you pick up the book, you don't have any idea what it is about because of the marketing ploy to not tell you what happens in this "truly special story." All you know is that something happens on a beach thing brings two women together. You learn what happened on the beach about 130 pages into the story, but by that point, I already was frustrated with the characters. Had this story been told from one point of view with less skirting of the issue, it might have been better, but probably not.
I think another reviewer got it right when they wrote that this book was a mediocre white guilt novel.(less)
A fabulously written book about the history of cell research, the ethics behind medical research and the life and family of Henrietta Lacks, the woman...moreA fabulously written book about the history of cell research, the ethics behind medical research and the life and family of Henrietta Lacks, the woman behind the first "immortal" cells. It is also the story of her children, especially her youngest daughter Deborah and how the discovery of their mother's contribution to science, twenty years after the fact, impacted their lives. (less)
A number of my book club friends really enjoyed this book, one even called it laugh out loud funny, but I just kept waiting for it to get better.
The...moreA number of my book club friends really enjoyed this book, one even called it laugh out loud funny, but I just kept waiting for it to get better.
The story is of Judd Foxman and his dysfunctional family sitting shiva for his recently deceased father. Their father wasn't highly religious, and yet his dying wish was for his children to sit a full week-long shiva when they haven't been able to spend more than a day or so together in years. Each of them also has other issues going on that bring in additional layers of dysfunction. Judd is the narrator and his "issue" is the one we get to know the most - his marriage has just fallen apart because on his wife's birthday he walks in to find her having sex with his boss, only to find that the affair has been going on for a year and that she is pregnant.
Maybe I've hit the age where I'm just too old for this book, but I just didn't find it funny and on a lot of levels it felt like it was trying too hard. (less)
The Double Bind is a page-turner written by Chris Bohjalian. While Midwives will always be his best in my mind, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The sto...moreThe Double Bind is a page-turner written by Chris Bohjalian. While Midwives will always be his best in my mind, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The story tells of Laurel Estabrook who was brutally attacked while riding her bicycle through the back roads of Vermont during her sophomore year of college. The book opens with her memory of the attack and then quickly fast forwards 6 years to the present time of the story. Laurel has completely given up cycling, graduated from college and works at a homeless shelter. She goes from being an outgoing young woman to socially withdrawn. Her life revolves around photography, work and swimming. She lives with her college roommate, Talia, and dates men twice her age. When a homeless man dies and leaves a box of photos that he wouldn't let anyone see, Laurel gets swept into trying to figure out his story and discovers a deeply hidden secret.
Laurel had grown up on Long Island and because she sees sites she recognizes in some of the photos, namely a pool club that was once Jay Gatsby's house, she believes that Bobbie Crocker, the homeless man, was really the long lost son of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Her friends think this is rather far fetched, but Laurel is convinced when Pamela Buchanan hires a lawyer to get the photos back.
When I began reading it, I went to wikipedia to understand what a double bind is. They explain it to be "a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one message negating the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. The nature of a double bind is that the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither comment on the conflict, nor resolve it, nor opt out of the situation." So for the first portion of the book, I had a sense of what the double bind was. At some point, however, they use the definition of double bind that suggested “that double binds could cause an organic brain disorder if imposed on young children or people with unstable or 'weak' personalities” and therefore can bring out schizophrenia. Since Bobbie Crocker was a schizophrenic, this brings another level into the story.
This was a highly compelling read. The characters were very realistic and Bohjalian has a way with words that brings a story to life. He interweaves the story of The Great Gatsby in a way that almost makes you want to believe that the characters were real. The ending was an incredible shock and made me want to flip back through the pages and try to see it coming. In terms of a double bind creating schizophrenia, I don't see it as central to the book and somewhat an unnecessary secondary thread. Bohjalian did, however, approach personality disorders from various sides as a underlying story. All in all, a good read.(less)
This is probably a good book, however, I recently read The 19th Wife and got a pretty decent education in the history of Mormonism and of the fundamen...moreThis is probably a good book, however, I recently read The 19th Wife and got a pretty decent education in the history of Mormonism and of the fundamentalist sects.
The book is supposed to be about the double homicide committed by the Lafferty brothers, but I got about 10 chapters into this book and they had barely been mentioned.
If you know nothing about FLDS then I would suggest reading this book. If you have a basic knowledge, this book rehashes a lot of information that you probably already know.(less)
Committed takes up where Eat, Pray, Love leaves off but is a very different type of book. Whereas EPL is the telling of one woman's journey to find he...moreCommitted takes up where Eat, Pray, Love leaves off but is a very different type of book. Whereas EPL is the telling of one woman's journey to find herself, Committed is more of an anthropological study of marriage. Gilbert repeatedly explains that she is not a sociologist or anthropologist and that the book is littered with her opinions, but that is the basis of the book.
That said, I found the book interesting. At times it was fascinating - her discussions about the history of marriage, how other cultures view marriage, and, because of my own personal opinions on the matter, her discussion about same sex marriage. On the other hand, at times it was tedious, particularly towards the end.
The basic premise of the book is that after finding love in EPL, she and her partner semi-settle down in the US but he only has a 3 month travel visa and so he has to routinely leave the country and then come back. After one of these many trips, the Department of Homeland Security detains him and won't let him back in the country because he has done it too many times. The only way for him to be able to stay in the US is for Gilbert to marry him - something she has done in her heart, but for a variety of reasons, has issues with doing legally. This book takes place while they travel around Southeast Asia while waiting for him to be given a fiance visa. Gilbert can't stop her nature as a writer/researcher and so she uses this time to research the history of marriage and try to come to peace with the idea.
Publisher's Weekly has a review on Amazon that hits the nail on the head - "The good news is her voice is clear and winning. The bad news is the structure doesn't work. Part history, part travelogue, Committed often makes for a jumpy read." It was worth reading, but I definitely didn't come away loving it the way I did EPL.(less)
I loved the first two books in the Millennium series, so it was with much anticipation that I picked up this final chapter. Unfortunately, it did not...moreI loved the first two books in the Millennium series, so it was with much anticipation that I picked up this final chapter. Unfortunately, it did not draw me in the same way that the initial two books did and I waited a good 250 pages for the plot to really pick up. Once it did, the book was quite enjoyable, but still not as good as Stieg Larsson's others.
In this installment, we pick up with action that had just happened in The Girl Who Played with Fire. While Larsson reminds the reader of some of the details, there is something of an expectation that you remember all of the characters and their recent actions. This is especially difficult since so many of the Swedish names are similar and therefore difficult to tell apart.
Lisbeth Salander has just tried to kill her father, Alexander Zalachenko, and has been buried alive and shot in the head herself. She winds up in the hospital and then preps for a court trial for various crimes that had been committed in book #2. While her story is of central importance, much of what happens has to do with the history and current operations of the special police force that had protected Zalachenko for all of these years. In addition to keeping Zalachenko's identity and illegal activities quiet, this special police force also tried repeatedly to put Salander in a mental institution to keep her silent.
As with the other Millennium books, there are also various interesting subplots happening with other characters all strangely tying together in the end.
This was an entertaining book and people who loved the first two in the series should read it, but it is a somewhat disappointing end to a series cut short. (less)
This was a very interesting and well written book, but didn't bring a ton to the table that I didn't already know. However, I truly agree with Mark Bi...moreThis was a very interesting and well written book, but didn't bring a ton to the table that I didn't already know. However, I truly agree with Mark Bittman's ideas and it is my goal to eat more sustainably, or saner in his words. I do like a number of the recipes and will try them out.(less)
A Disobedient Girl is the story of three very different women in Sri Lanka told from the voices of two of them. The reader doesn't get a clear sense o...moreA Disobedient Girl is the story of three very different women in Sri Lanka told from the voices of two of them. The reader doesn't get a clear sense of the time line except that one story is told in flashbacks over the course of a train trip and the other is over a number of years.
The book jacket says that this novel is about "betrayal and salvation, the strength of the human spirit, and the boundlessness and limits of love." Personally, I think that is pushing it a bit far. For me, this novel was more about position, sense of self, class, family and secrecy.
The narrators are Biso and Latha and the book alternates between their stories, which we are told are interwoven. Biso is a mother of three who has just left her abusive husband and is traveling to what she hopes is her salvation. Not only was her husband abusive, but Biso had had an affair and her husband murdered her lover. On her journey away from her husband, she meets strangers both good and bad, and as the book jacket says, her journey turns from hopeful to disastrous.
Latha we meet when she is eleven years old. The opening sentence of the book characterizes this young girl - "She loved fine things and she had no doubt that she deserved them." Unfortunately, she is a servant in the Vithanage household. She grows up as a playmate to their daughter Thara, but as she hits her early teenage years, she is allowed to socialize less and required to work more. When she asks to be given some of the money she feels she deserves for working in order to buy a pair of sandals, she is refused. She overhears Madam Vithanage say that it is time for her to stop going to school and start learning how to "cook and clean and get ready to be a proper servant." That statement burns her so badly that she vows revenge and does it the only way that she knows how - she lures Thara's boyfriend away in order to cause Thara to become miserable and then fail in school which would apparently crush Mrs. Vithanage. Her plan somewhat backfires when she gets pregnant. For some reason, after having the baby at a convent, Latha comes back to work for Thara when she gets married and that is what parts 2 and 3 of the book cover.
I finished the book, but I was just willing it to end rather than hoping it would last just a few pages more. I wanted to read it to see if it got better, but it didn't. At the beginning you feel something for the characters, but that seems to fall away as you continue to read. I felt more towards Biso, but her story just got boring. I don't know much about Sri Lanka, but for a novel, that shouldn't really matter. I just don't see how this is such a spectacular debut. It definitely makes you think about how little things can change your life and about the master/servant relationship, but that's not a reason to read a book.(less)
Fabulous book. Perhaps more of a 4 1/2 stars vs 5 stars, but I would definitely encourage people to read this one. Incredibly lyrical. If you enjoyed...moreFabulous book. Perhaps more of a 4 1/2 stars vs 5 stars, but I would definitely encourage people to read this one. Incredibly lyrical. If you enjoyed Water for Elephants you will probably also like this.(less)
The year was 1962. The location, Jackson, Mississippi. The deep South prior to desegregation was a place where most comfortable white households had a...moreThe year was 1962. The location, Jackson, Mississippi. The deep South prior to desegregation was a place where most comfortable white households had a black woman doing all of the housework and taking care of the children. Where people had separate bathrooms in their homes (or garages) so that their spaces wouldn't be "contaminated" by the germs their help carried. It was a time when white women only went to college in order to get a "Mrs." This is the scene that Kathryn Stockett elegantly paints in her novel "The Help."
The story is told from the voices of three very different women - Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen is the hired help to Miss Elizabeth Leefot.. Aibileen herself has raised 17 white children and one of her own. Aibilene follows the unwritten rules that direct the help to keep their noses and their minds to themselves. Minny is also hired help, but she has a much bigger problem with keeping her mind to herself. She can cook "like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue" which has lost her many a job. Miss Skeeter is a young white woman who just graduated from college, moved back home and wants to be a journalist or writer. These women wind up coming together when Miss Skeeter decides to write a book about the black women who raise white babies.
Miss Skeeter comes from the world of white privilege. Her family owns a cotton farm and she was raised by a black nanny - Constantine. She considered Constantine her closest friend and confidante, wrote letters to her while away at college and returned home shocked to find that she had been fired. No one would talk to Skeeter about what happened to Constantine. Instead, she was simply expected to become part of wealthy white society - she is the editor of the Junior League's newsletter, plays weekly bridge games with her closest friends from childhood, and plays tennis at the club. But it leaves her unfulfilled.
Skeeter gets a job writing the "Miss Myrna" column at the local paper. This is the housekeeping column where people write in their questions and she is supposed to answer them. She takes the job as an opportunity to get something on her resume, but being raised with help, she knows nothing about the subject. She approaches Aibileen, who works for her friend Elizabeth, to help her. In the process, she comes up with another story to write that goes against everything she was raised to think.
This book was beautiful. Kathryn Stockett captured each woman's voice perfectly. You quickly come to understand these strong women and the challenges that each of them face. While it is a work of fiction, the civil rights movement is definitely a part of our history, but this is also a side that most people have not seen. I could not put this book down and would highly recommend it to anyone.(less)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is an epic novel, a rarity in today's literary field. I don't know that I would have ever picked it up,...moreThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is an epic novel, a rarity in today's literary field. I don't know that I would have ever picked it up, but a close friend raved about it. I had tried reading one of Chabon's other books (The Yiddish Policemen's Union) with no luck, but this one grabbed me from early on.
Kavalier & Clay tells the story of two young cousins who together successfully write comic books before, during and after WWII. It manages to mix the stories of these boys with Jewish history, a slightly revised history of comic books, and a fascination with Henry Houdini and magic itself while having two incredibly developed main characters.
Josef Kavalier is a Czech refugee who comes to NY to live with his aunt and cousin, Sammy Klayman. Kavalier has been trained as both an artist and as a magician and Klayman, whose professional name is Clay, has an obsessive love with comic books and a masterful ability to write the stories. Their main character in their body of work is the Escapist, created as a combination of Kavalier's survivor's guilt and Clay's desire to escape his polio-stricken body and life in general.
Much of the beginning of the book has to do with their comic books and the business itself. Things truly change when Kavalier tries to save his younger brother and when Clay deals (or doesn't deal) with his homosexuality.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I'm not a huge fan of comic books, although due to a love of Art Spiegelman's books, I recognize that there is definitely more to them than meets the eye. But it had been a long time since I've read a book with the depth of Kavalier & Clay. I didn't want the story to end.(less)