Between my boss’s retirement on Wednesday and going out of town for the first part of the holidays to help my parents with Thanksgiving – and playing with photos on my other blog – I didn’t read too much last week. I barely began reading The Heretic’s Daughter last weekend before deciding to save it for a time with fewer interruptions.
Instead, I’ve read about half of Haven Kimmel’s Something Rising (Light and Swift). The same day that Wendy posted a review of The Robber Bride by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood, I went in search of it at the used bookstore I frequent during lunch. I scored – for $23 I picked up The Robber Bride and The Blind Assassin, along with Kimmel’s book and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.
Last summer I listened to the audiobook of Kimmel’s memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and loved it. I decided to read Something Rising, figuring it wouldn’t be as demanding of my undivided attention. So far, the book is a pleasant enough coming-of-age story, and if you like to shoot pool, you’ll love it. It’s not heavy on plot, but Kimmel is a lovely writer. Although Cassie lacks the personality of Zippy so far, I understand the book takes off in the second half, and I’ll be along for the ride.
Speaking of audiobooks, I finished listening to Jane Green’s The Beach House last week – a guilty pleasure indeed, because it’s truly chick-lit beach reading. But I enjoyed it and its multitude of characters in audio format, regardless of how shallow and contrived they (and their situations) were. The book reminds me of the Low Country writers – what I call the three-name southern writers: Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, Anne Rivers Siddon – in nearly every respect. If you enjoy any of them, you’ll probably like the Nantucket setting for the same themes – preserving the family home against rising coastal property values and predator developers, marital discord, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. It’s all there, even a hint at the end of Monroe’s environmental overtones.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
Who: Julia Glass
Why: You read the award winners; you have some Irish in your blood; you like Greek islands; you love collies; or you simply enjoy a good family saga.
Many critics took issue with this book’s winning the National Book Award, but I liked it. I won’t second-guess whether the book deserved that high honor, but it was a good read for me. I noticed it when it was published in 2002, but I finally read it only last month.
Now I have her most recent book, The Whole World Over, on my TBR stack. I thoroughly enjoyed her writing, although I found her characters in this book to be a bit stilted and one-dimensional in some cases. Overall, though, I’m willing to give the author another chance.
The reader is perfect for this work by the author of The Kite Runner, a book I can’t say that I loved – who could love that dark story? But it was a great read that was tough to put down. Splendid Suns was not as gripping, and the violence became overwhelming at times for this reader, especially listening to it.
So at one point, when I knew something gruesome this way comes, I did something I’ve never done – or even considered. I went online and looked for spoilers. I read about what was going to happen next, skipped a CD, and listened to the concluding discs.
A few days later, I picked up the book in a shop and read a few of the pages that I’d missed. Boy am I glad I didn’t listen to that while driving.
Splendid Suns had its moments, and I realize the violence was necessary to the plot. But as with sex scenes that convey intimacy without including every detail, I would have gotten the idea without the brutal play-by-play. I will, however, credit the author with creating a villain even more despicable than the one in his first work.
I also found some parts as schmaltzy as others were gory: “She had never loved him as much as she did at that moment.” Puhleeze!
Like The Kite Runner, though, A Thousand Splendid Suns offers an enlightening – and frightening – look at life under the Taliban. But the next book I’ll read on the subject is the nonfictional Three Cups of Tea.
Who: Brunonia Barry
When: You’re in the mood for a creepy mystery. Today is good. (Halloween)
Why: The story behind this book is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, the author self-published 2,000 copies before selling it for a cool $2 million to one of three major publishers who got into a bidding war. How often does that happen? Then there’s the fact that there’s no such thing as lace reading. The author dreamed up the entire concept. This NPR article will fill you in on the story behind the story and also includes an excerpt.
As for the book itself, I was both skeptical of and intrigued by all the hype surrounding its publication. I figured the publisher was spending big bucks to promote it, not wanting to lose the bet on a self-published book. But intrigue prevailed – after all, it’s a book about Salem witches. I enjoyed it overall, although one part lagged, IMO. I lent it to another editor at work who reads mysteries more than I do. She really liked it.
Who: Toni Morrison
Why: All of the hype is true: brutally powerful, mesmerizing, read it and tremble. I certainly did, but then I had a time time watching parts of Roots. This is the story of Sethe, who escapes slavery but remains haunted by it – really haunted. Whew!
When: You’re ready to take on a challenging, profoundly moving book.
Who: Anita Diamant
Why: Another book that I own but listened to the audiobook instead of reading. I didn’t want to get out of the car. This Old Testament story of Jacob, told my his four wives, was amazing. I looked up scholarly articles about this book after I listened to it. A wonderful read about ancient women’s rites – and lack of rights, if you will. Herbalism, paganism, midwifery – it’s all there.