This is an elegantly written, well-reported book on a subject that left me gobsmacked. It would be very easy for a writer who delved into the very heaThis is an elegantly written, well-reported book on a subject that left me gobsmacked. It would be very easy for a writer who delved into the very heart of this country's "dog problem" to leap upon a soapbox and beat her chest. Skole is too talented a writer to do anything like this. Instead, she has crafted a subtle, nuanced narrative that looks at the issue of overpopulation, kill shelters, rescue organizations shuttling dogs from southern states to northern states, and the cultural differences between dog ownership between these two regions. It's compelling from page one, since Skole's impetus for the book was the strange journey of her own rescue dog. But that element of memoir gives way to a rich, full-bodied nonfiction narrative, in which the reader is introduced to a whole cast of characters, each fully drawn. No easy conclusions are drawn here, and the complexities are never brushed aside. In particular, I'm thinking about the incisive reporting Skole does on some of the rescue organizations--well-meaning, responsible, no doubt, for countless dogs saved, but also, like any kind of organization, vulnerable to poor management and incompetence that can lead to abuse. I believe that another writer, with Skole's passion for the subject, might have been tempted to whitewash this kind of thing. Skole pays her reader, and her subject matter, the respect the comes from transparency and diligence in reporting.
But aside from the skilled reporting and the nuanced narrative, this is just a great read. There is tension throughout the book, as this is truly a journey. There's a mystery at the heart of this story--Jacki's beloved dog is actually "Daisy's Daughter." That's all she really knew about her pet's provenance. And it was that curiosity about her dog's journey from North Carolina to New Jersey that set her on this story. The stories we hear and the people we meet along the way could come straight out of any John McPhee book. To me, there really is no higher praise. ...more
A delightful book with an engaging voice. My son inhaled this one. I really enjoyed the level of research and detail which Philbrick seamlessly integrA delightful book with an engaging voice. My son inhaled this one. I really enjoyed the level of research and detail which Philbrick seamlessly integrated into the narrative. I found the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter a little much, but for a kid, this was probably manna. I was also really touched by the author's story in the Q&A in the backmatter about his challenges getting published. Apparently, he wrote ten novels before even one was published. He was sanguine about the whole thing, maybe because he is now a Newberry Award winner. But his advice for writers was "Never ever give up." ...more
I wish I liked the Linda Greenlaw portrayed here more than ended up liking her. The book is fair, but I don't fault her for that. At the time she wrotI wish I liked the Linda Greenlaw portrayed here more than ended up liking her. The book is fair, but I don't fault her for that. At the time she wrote this, she was simply not a writer. And for someone who hasn't written much, this book is clear, practical, straightforward, unromantic (except for certain awkward moments, where such romanticism seemed forced). I admire her attitude and her toughness as a person, but I simply did not like this book, despite being a fiend for all literature nautical in nature. First, I simply could not get over the fact that her response to a seething, ugly racist on her crew was silence. Not just once, but several times. He verbally attacked a black man who was also on the crew--and who, it appears by the end of the book, is the most able crewman aboard. He calls him a nigger and a "porch monkey" and Linda has very little to say about this. She takes great care to let us know this young racist is a good kid and a good crewman. He'll settle down once we're fishing, she tells the reader. Huh? Just as I reluctantly buy into this, he makes a noose right in front of her and muses about lynching his fellow crewman. Again, there is no response. I was aghast. She's the captain. She has no problem later in the book ripping another crewman a new one because he mentioned over radio the fact that the boat had had a fantastic day of fishing (she didn't want other captain's to overhear the transmission and then try to encroach on her berth). In fact, she rips him, acidly, for a full day. However, she has nothing to say to Carl, who calls a fellow crewman a porch monkey, a nigger, and who mentions in her presence that he'd like to "lynch" him? Because she spends so much time talking about crew morale, about how important their states of collective mind are, I don't see any compelling reason why she handled this the way she did. And I found it very hard to get back on track after reading those scenes. No, a commercial boat is not going to be the f-ing Rainbow Coalition. Linda's silence in the fact of this crap was bad enough, but when she tried then to tell the reader that this young man was one of the best crewmen she'd ever worked with, I was done here.
Of course, I finished the book (I always do) and found some interesting parts to distract me from this. But then we get to the part where a swordfish is stabbed, tied to the stern, and lit on fire, just to "change our luck." (Disturbingly, the very few negative reviews of this book I've read on Goodreads have only mentioned reviewers' disgust with the swordfish scene, not a peep about the creepy way Greenlaw ignored the vile attacks on her best crewman).
Again, I fully realize that the sea is not romantic, not to a commercial fisherman. It's the most difficult, dangerous job for a reason, and there is no luxury aboard of being able to examine your philosophies when you're in the midst of it. However, there was plenty of time for reflection by the time Greenlaw wrote this. To her credit, she included the ugliness of Carl's treatment of Peter, but she did not address it. It seemed to be included only to add color.
Gah. I hate that I don't like this book, because two authors I admire immensely--Sebastian Junger and Douglas Whynott--both praised this account. Sigh. This has been the summer of Hating Books Everyone Else Loves. ...more
I found this an intensely problematic book. In fact, by the end, I was reading it out loud to my husband in the car. I picked up the book at the libraI found this an intensely problematic book. In fact, by the end, I was reading it out loud to my husband in the car. I picked up the book at the library after hearing the author on a regional NPR broadcast--and he seemed like a very grounded man. However, it wasn't long before I realized the book was written for the 1%. The author claims to presume the reader has a $75,000 annual income--but based on what I read in this book, that would be the minimum both parents would have to be making in order for any of this to be relatable. We read celebrations of a homeowner who sold his $2 million dollar home for a $1 million dollar home, donating the difference to charity only after he was sure he could "cover his kids' college expenses." This is a level of wealth that is decidedly not middle-class, nor even upper middle-class. If it were only that, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but we've got other advice that truly can only refer to a very narrow band of parents making far more money than they need, and who are facing the first-world problem of entitled children. I'm actually glad there's somebody out there gently helping wealthy parents understand that giving their children everything is actually harmful. However, the admonishments, such as they are, are as gentle as a falling flower petal. The most successful anecdote, about a Mexican immigrant who nannied for a family with a child in an expensive private school, is actually not about the successful immigrant as much as it is about the way other wealthy kids could not relate to the immigrant's daughter who was able to attend that same private school on scholarship.
I think the fault is mine, honestly. I didn't realize there was coded language in the title and subtitle. As a middle-class reader, perhaps even on the upper-middle class end of things, I thought I was going to read a book about helping my kids be "smart about money" as the title implies. But I missed the coded words: "Spoiled" and "Grounded" and even "Generous." The suggestion is, of course, that children with unimaginable opportunities and toys and vacations and so on, might actually need help being grounded and generous. For my own misapprehension of the author's approach, I take responsibility. But I do think that when the vast majority of your anecdotes--and there were a load of them--are about investment bankers, real estate heirs, lawyers, sociologists, and doctors--you're not speaking to the 99%. That was why I kept reading the book aloud to my husband: there was nary a public school teacher, a social worker, a service worker, a day care attendant, a business analyst among the people written about. However, considering the author himself is a successful New York Times columnist and author and his wife, Jodi Kantor, received a seven-figure advance for her book on the Obamas while also being a New York Times reporter, Lieber is really only writing about his peers. For that purpose, I'm grateful he's helping his one-percenters "be more decent."...more
I know, I know. I'm one of the handful of people who wasn't impressed by the book. Clearly a chess parable, which was cool, especially for my son, whoI know, I know. I'm one of the handful of people who wasn't impressed by the book. Clearly a chess parable, which was cool, especially for my son, who is a chess lover. And it was most interesting at the end, natch. But I found it hard to muster the interest to continue reading each time I picked it up. I connected with no one. There was a lack of warmth, a quirky humor that just didn't work for me. And I have read some reviews justifying the lack of connection other readers have sensed based on the fact that this is a children's book. If anything, the fact that it's a children's book makes it that much more baffling that the characters are completely sans emotion (save, perhaps, for Angela). But why should you feel emotion for a mere pawn, or a bishop, or a crafty knight? Clearly, an emotional connection is not the point. This is the literary equivalent of a Sudoko puzzle. If you like sudoko or anagrams, you'll probably enjoy this book....more