Annette Sanford: Eleanor and Abel: a Love Story This is delightful. Reading about a couple of 70-somethings falling in love is totally charming. It's possible that you have to be a 50-something or more to fully appreciate it, but I hope not.
Chris Bohjalian: Before You Know Kindness This has been a favorite author for awhile now, and his newest does not disappoint. I've been dragging this everywhere with me, and reading more than knitting in order to finish. Bohjalian has a deft hand with family dynamics. He clearly shows both sides of any argument. He creates characters who a reader can get fully involved with. Read this, read any of his books. Purely satisfying.
Kent Haruf: Eventide If you liked Plainsong, this will be equally satisfying. Haruf is good at exploring both the warmth and chill of human relationships. I like his characters, and he leaves the door open for a continuing saga about how these lives keep intersecting each other.
Lawrence Block: Tanner's Twelve Swingers My first ever audio book. I'm a Block fan from his books Hit Man and Hit List. This wasn't as good, but it was entertaining enough to finish...and I got a lot of knitting done as well.
Pearl Buck: The Good Earth This is considered a classic for a good reason. I first read it forty-plus years ago. Loved it then; loved it now. THe family life cycle in pre-Revolutionary China, and the family life cycle in 21st century America....not much difference in dynamics.
Philippa Gregory: The Queen's Fool I love historical fiction from the Tudor/Stuart reigns. This one does not disappoint. Try The Other Boleyn Girl by this author as well.
Terry Kay: The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene A bit slow to get into, and repetitious in parts, but eventually I got caught up in the plot and decided to finish it. Ending falls flat...the whole book was a bit flat. Kay is a good writer, but he needs a better story to tell. His previous book, To Dance With the White Dog," was far superior. Read that one instead.
Vivian Schilling: Quietus This is a can't-put-down book. I was willingly persuaded to suspend belief and go along with the overtones of the supernatural. Through the plot line of survivors of a plane crash being picked off one by one by spectres of Death, the book explores issues of mortality. Not exactly a cheery topic, but like a sore tooth, I am often drawn to probe around it anyway.
Here's a sweetheart of a book. One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer starts off as a quiet story. A spinster daughter who paints pictures of chairs and an unhappy granddaughter with a failing marriage join forces to take the ashes of the family's matriarch to Scotland, as requested in her will. During the summer that Sarah spends with her Aunt Edna, two amazing characters emerge to enchant the reader. I can't say enough good things about the wit and the wisdom that come shouting out of every page.
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Written as a series of letters to various people, the story starts out in a rather glib and shallow way. There are three plots occurring simultaneously. One, Olivia's sister is battling leukemia. Olivia battles with her. Two, Olivia is a Hollywood producer, struggling to get her version of Don Quixote on the screen. Three, Olivia is still in love with Michael, who has broken up with her.
In different hands, this might have stayed glib and shallow. As I got further into the story, I found depth and humor and a character I grew to like a great deal. Readers on Amazon.com have widely divergent views of this book. I side with the ones who really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
The Namesake ended on the same strong note that it began. It is a highly satisfying story that left me richer for having read it. I think it makes an excellent book club book....there is much to discuss and learn.
I've just completed Spending, by Mary Gordon, for the second time. It is a novel about a woman artist who questions why it is that male artists traditionally acquired patrons who support them, allowing them the time to devote to their art. In answer to her question, she acquires a patron, who not only supports her, but becomes her lover as well. Monica, the main character, spends much of the book wondering if she is now free to pursue her art, or if she is merely a kept woman.
The first time I read this, I was enthralled. The storyline was fresh, original, creative. Gordon's writing was strong and entertaining. The world of art of was presented in ways I'd never thought about. I reached the end of the book and wished I had people to discuss it with. When my fiber arts book club was brainstorming what novels to read, I suggested this one. I did mention that it was loaded with erotic passages as well.
I hope the book club won't shun me now. I did enjoy the book this second time around, but it didn't hold up in quality. This time it felt wordy, pretentious, overdone. I still think it's an intriguing plot, and when the author concentrates on action to move the plot along, it's enjoyable to read. But there is too much pedantic discussion of artistic philosophy. The erotic scenes get tiresome and repetitive. And the ending is contrived and almost silly.
Has anyone else read it? I'd love to know what you think.
Today I began The Midwife's Tale, by Gretchen Laskas. So far, it's fully engaging.
My Sister's Keeper finished with me blowing my nose and dabbing the moisture from my eyes. I don't want to give anything away, and at first I was feeling that the ending was a bit contrived. It definitely headed in a direction I didn't anticipate. And on more reflective thought, I still think it was contrived. But that doesn't negate the fact that it tore open a few heartstrings and made me sniffle.
SPOILER AHEAD - (skip this paragraph if you plan to read the book. Come back and read it when you're done, and then let me know if you agree or disagree.).... ....I also think the storyline with Jesse, the son, was resolved in a hash-job kind of way. The father in the story is a fireman, and Jesse's reaction to the impact of a sibling with a chronic serious illness is to become an arsonist. (This IS a spoiler, but that information is revealed fairly early in the story, so I only feel a twinge of guilt.) At the end of the book, there's a very simplistic and disappointing resolution to this conflict.
But these flaws are minor to the overall impact of the story, and to the power of Picoult's narration.
THE KITE RUNNER I'm loving this book, although it is not a comfortable story to read. The setting opens in Afghanistan of the late 60's/early 70's. Hosseini slowly and carefully reveals the close, but conflicted friendship between two boys. He leads us to a traumatic episode that has huge consequences for the boys, both as individuals, and for their relationship. In the second part of the book, the setting changes to California in the 80's, and that's where I am now. The author is skillfully peeling each layer of relationship dynamics....peer to peer, and father to son....away. To reveal what.....? I'm eager to find out.
This entry marks the spin-off of my reading list to a separate blog. Entries will generally consist of a short blurb about whatever I'm currently reading. Occasionally I may foray into lists of favorites. I'm not picturing this as a highly interactive discussion of reading tastes and experiences. It's mostly a way of getting the book stuff off the sidebar of my main blog. But for anyone who wanders in here, there are lots of good things to sample. Enjoy.
And the book I'm finishing out the year 2004 with is My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. This author is a favorite; I'm always impressed by her adeptness with showing that there are many sides to any controversial subjects. She most often writes about legal conflicts within a family, and she has a good grasp of family dynamics as well. This current novel revolves around a family with a daughter dying from complications of leukemia, and another daughter conceived for the purpose of saving her sister's life. There are no bad guys in Picoult's books...only normal people caught up in bad situations.