You may have noticed that I have been away from the blog for a couple of weeks. Actually I’m sure you haven’t, which is totally cool with me. I’ve been out of the country with inconsistent Internet and WiFi availability/funtionality. However, a reader still reads and a writer still writes regardless of where she is, thus, in spite of Internet independability, I have still read stuff, and have still written stuff. I’m home now, so for today, let’s start with the stuff I read:
The first chapter of this book ended with one of the main characters burying her amputated arm in a casket with a ceremony. Needless to say, I really wondered if this book was what I thought it was if that was going to be a thing. However, it wasn’t. Fortunately.
For some reason, I struggled with how to summarize this novel. So for the first time writing these particular reading posts, I’m going to cheat a little bit and use the Amazon summary of the book:
Cheri and Geneva grew up on “a little patch of nothing made up of dairy farms in the valleys and boarded up iron-ore mines in the mountains, a town of old folks waiting to die and young people dying to leave.” Now, Cheri has fled that life for the city, leaving Geneva behind to care for their aunt as she succumbs to cancer. Her death draws them together, forcing them to face their past-and each other. When Cheri’s mother turns up with a strange baby and a dangerous secret close behind, the choices that follow will push all of them beyond boundaries they never thought they’d cross.
I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways I feel it does an excellent job of exploring the relationships of some very different women with a common connection. However, I wasn’t always completely convinced of the choices that some of the characters made. It is a shorter novel, about 200 pages, so an easy one for you to find out for yourself.
The Poisonwood Bible marked a very interesting shift in style for Kingsolver, and not always in ways I’ve liked. This latest of hers – The Lacuna – was still another shift as I’d classify it more as historical fiction, which I do enjoy. The first part of the novel is very slow, but once the main character, Harrison Shepherd, starts to have some real characters to interact with, the story picks up a more interesting thread. Shepherd has a mother from Mexico and a father from the U.S. His mother leaves his father when he is young and takes him to Mexico with her.
With the exception of a couple of useful scenes for later, I’d say you could jump to the second section of the book and not miss much. It is a life story and the historical part comes into play as Shepherd is employed by muralist Diego Rivera in multiple roles, develops a friendship with artist Frida Kahlo, and later becomes a cook, among other things, with exiled Leon Trotsky. It is these relationships and his subsequent move back to the U.S. that give the story flavor. It has a bittersweet ending and in spite of the slow start, I enjoyed the eventual progression of the plot and character.
This was a very sad book, but also very moving. The narrator is a young boy (he gives different ages to different people, but we’ll start with 8 or 9) who has lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He is a highly sensitive child who has a difficult time relating to people in spite of his efforts to try.
The story revolves around his attempt to make sense of his father’s death, and after finding a key at the bottom of a vase in his father’s office, he develops a mission to find the lock that the key will open. The only clue is that it was in an envelope with “Black” written on the outside of it. Thomas, the primary narrator, carries us through his emotions backward and forward in time and through his journey, we also learn more of his grandparents, who have already suffered an earlier tragedy in their lives, and the we get a glimpse into the lives of the different “Blacks” Thomas meets along the way. The end offers hope, which is a necessary and positive element for this story.
YOUNG ADULT/CHILDREN’S FICTION
I had entered a contest that was co-sponsored by Liz Norris and her agent, Janet Reid as a “pay-it-forward” concept for the release of Norris’ debut novel. It seemed an easy decision to also purchase this novel. Janelle, the main character, is fatally hit by a car, except a classmate she had never given much thought to before, brought her back to life. This, of course, sets up the scenario for the larger plot line that involves strange deaths, the FBI, and another unknown agency, the IA.
For me there was a disconnect of inauthentic events that were designed to help us come into the full force of the primary storyline. Obviously the overarching theme and plot are science fiction, but it must be steeped in reality, and some of the initial reality didn’t cut it for me. However, getting past that and into the second and third parts of the story, it was an eventful read and the character development improved a great deal, resulting in a good turnaround.
And that is my month.
Currently I am reading Bossypants, by Tina Fey.
By the way, while I was out of town, in an effort to save space, I only had the book I had been reading, then I had books on my Kindle app on my phone. By the time I left, I started the first couple of pages of two other books, but gave up on them, irritated. It is entirely possible that I was just irritated with the stories and not wanting to read them, but I also think a great deal had to do with the idea that I was tired of reading electronically. Would I feel differently if it were a better size – like an actual Kindle? I don’t know, but when I got to the Atlanta airport, I was extremely excited and happy to have a “real” print book in my hands. Thoughts? Has this sort of thing happened to anyone else?
More importantly: what are YOU reading? What should I be reading next?