Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reading Storm....

Reading, reading, reading......I have been reading up a storm. Novels....which I blogged about recently. Here are my most recent reads and what I thought about them.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison. Set in early America history, post 1776, pre-civil war, it was a puzzling read. The language was really clunky and thick, hard to wade through a lot of the time. The time line was all jumbled, forward, backward, sideways, backwards again. And each chapter, written from another character's perspective, was hard to understand who was narrating. It is a short read, troubling and left me me with a dissatisfied taste. Unfinished, like a dangling ball of yarn off a half-knitted sweater. I don't read reviews on a book until after I finish the book myself. In reading the reviews on Amazon.com for this book, I have to agree with many of the readers who gave the book low marks.

That said, what I like about the book/story was a step into another time and place, the unsafe, hard, and precarious life of women (and men) during this time frame. The isolation, hardships, fear, and struggles to just exist and make a living. The connecting, helping, coming together of the various women and men in the story, was drawing, yet dismaying with the utter falling apart of each one. The book ended with a sense of hopelessness. Perhaps, without God, who was glaringly absent from the book in any real way, that is all life did hold: precarious, self-reliant hopelessness. Even the touch into anything of religion or God in was a hopeless venture of judgement, isolation and withdrawal. A sad and unsatisfying read over all. I guess even a Nobel Prize winner can write something that misses the mark.

Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue is an enjoyable story and walk into World War 2 America, and three sisters/women, their dreams and passions.

The challenges and sacrifices of life at home, while the men were at war, was simply told, without a question on the "rightness" of the sacrifice. A good perspective reset, for what we often feel we can and cannot live without in our current times. The spirit of patriotism, the uniform clad war hero, the letters to and from home, the loss and the family sacrifice all touched me and made a rich story.

I highly recommend this book and enjoyed the characters of strong women during a changing time.

The most recent book I read, recommended by my friend Stephanie, was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Except for two especially raw, sexual passages, the rest of the book was a delight that I sped through in two days. Following the lives of a small circle of circus workers during the US depression era, as well as an older (93) year old man in present times, the story battles with the conflicts of connection, caring, isolation and usefulness.

My heart was tugged with the fate and challenges of the older man, living in an "assisted living" home, overlooked by his family, sensing his slipping away and the contrast to his earlier, full, and dramatic life. The view into the circus life, the hierarchy, classes, connections and dangers, was fascinating.

Life can be lived out in so many different ways. It feels like to me, living in my homogenized suburbia, that modern life can get bland, flavorless, at times. Focused on the mundane.

I love, through books, to live other lives, times, lifestyles, countries. What a blessing a good read is.

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