Thursday, February 16, 2012

So Brave, Young, and Handsome

So Brave, Young, and Handsome was awesome in a quiet and understated way. Our main character, Becket, is having writer's block. His first novel was an overnight success; since then, despite writing 1,000 words per day, nothing is happening. One morning, Becket spies a man paddling down river in a boat - something that changes his life forever.

This tale meanders, in no hurry to arrive at it's final destination. However, it takes us to some neat places and introduces us to some people who are interesting "characters". I loved this book: the feel of the old west, characters who believe in honor, quests. All of it was rolled up into a great little story.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

I finished this book earlier today and it has been on my mind ever since; it is a very compelling story about the emergence of AIDS in the 80s and one rural doctor who was in charge of treatment in small town Tennessee.

Dr. Abraham Verghese's circumstances have taken him on a circuitous route that lead him to Johnson City, Tennessee. He is an infectious disease doctor, so he is the first doctor to be involved in the AIDS cases that are arising. In the beginning, it is a handful of people. By the time he leaves his post in Tennessee, the numbers are staggering.

Dr. Verghese relays the stories of his patients in vignettes that are powerful and stunning. He gets involved with each case personally and since AIDS has the same sad end, it begins to take a toll on Verghese and his relationships.

I couldn't put this book down, despite being over 400 pages. It was a quick read, one that had me teared up then laughing - what a group of characters, all dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Silver Sparrow

This one is our February book club selection. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones is the story of two families that live different lives.

Dana has always known she is the second family - the illegitimate one. She and her mother have lived an okay life, but they've scraped by from time to time. Dana has her father's love, but not his time..and she knows that her father's other daughter will always come first. It's kind of a hard lesson, but something that has always been the case. She is the secret.
That's a lesson that will mess with your head.

Chaurisse and her mother have no idea about her father's second family. No idea. Her mother runs a beauty shop. Chaurisse has always been given whatever she wants. She isn't spoiled, but she has it pretty good. She has a loving family, two parents, and an uncle that care about her a great deal. She has never doubted herself.

When Dana and Chaurisse's lives overlap, nothing good can come of the circumstance.
Someone is going to get hurt.

I was drawn into the story quickly. Easy to read and compelling, Jones did a good idea of setting up sympathetic characters.The relationships are authentic, but I can't imagine how you get drawn into this type of situation. Worth the read.
Now...I'm going to check Jason's phone and email. :)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This is a post September 11th novel and I cried approximately seventy five times while reading it, partly because I have a son, partly because I have such empathy for people who have actually lived this story, partly because all of our lives changed that day...but none so much as our main character, Oskar Schell. Oskar lost his father on 9/11. He has tried to deal with the loss, but it has been so difficult - they had an amazing relationship. When he finds a key in his father's closet, he knows it is a quest set up by his father - a final quest. He's glad to have something tangible, he's glad to have a task and a direction. Wandering across the city, he works to solve the mystery of the key - taking him into homes and lives that are all affected by the tragedy of 9/11. This book is more complex than I'm giving it credit for, but it is so, so good.

When She Woke

Hillary Jordan's first novel, Mudbound, was very moving. If you haven't read that one yet, you'll want to look into it.
Her newest novel, When She Woke, is an interesting concept. A modern day Scarlet Letter, our main character, Hannah Payne has gotten involved with a famous minister...who is married. But when convicted of a crime in her society, your skin is dyed a color indicating your crime level.
Hannah, a very sweet girl who has lived a sheltered life, has just woken up - her skin is red. Everyone knows her shame. How will she adapt to a society that has such obvious hostility towards her? Especially since she wouldn't name her lover.
Jordan has some subplots that are pretty complicated, rivaling Hannah's story - but it is interesting to think about what would happen in a society like this.
As a funny side note, a portion of the story takes place in Lakewood. Haha!

The Fault In Our Stars

John Green's writing has always been sensitive and interesting. Looking for Alaska kicked off his career, An Abundance of Katherines was next, Paper Towns followed suit, and Will Grayson Will Grayson rounded out his career.

The Fault in Our Stars is no different, beautifully written and touching. Hazel has terminal cancer. This we know from the start. She is on an experimental drug that has slowed down the growth of her cancer, but she is in a bad way. Hazel doesn't really want to get involved with people - she wants to hurt as few people as possible when she dies.

When she meets Augustus, her resolve starts to ebb. They meet in a cancer group held in a local church, but Gus is a cancer survivor. He is fast talking and charming and she falls for him quickly. It is mutual, and they start a romance that is quirky.

Time is running out, though, for Hazel and Gus...and like other John Green novels, the end is guaranteed to make you cry, make you appreciate the people you love, and most of all, appreciate such good writing.

Definitely read this one.

The Orchard

Theresa Weir gives us something to ponder in her novel The Orchard. Never having anything of her own, Theresa is elated when local (& handsome) apple farmer, Adrian, proposes. She envisions life on the orchard to be something lovely -something akin to home. Since she has no idea about home or being a wife, she has a hard time acclimating. Her mother in law is a bit of a cold fish and makes it known that Theresa isn't a welcome addition to the family. Adrian even shuts her out, preferring his mom's home cooking to Theresa's attempts, eating dinner at his family home instead of with his new wife.
In frustration, Theresa decides to run away. She doesn't get very far before she totals her car and has to call Adrian to pick her up...which turns out to be the best thing that could have happened for their marriage. After that, he is more receptive to Theresa. Things change.

But what is interesting about this novel is like on the apple orchard: the people that generationally work the orchar, the making of hybrid apple trees, how difficult it is to go organic, how easy it is to use pesticides. The use of pesticides was really eye opening; people who drove to the orchard to have fresh apples had no idea what they were eating - they thought they were getting nature's best directly from the source. Fascinating.

The novel is based on Theresa's own experiences, which gave it authenticity. Lots of food for thought.