book club: the help

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

I only have three words when describing this book. They are: GO. READ. NOW.

Ok, that’s a lie. I have many more words, but those are the first. The Help is overwhelmingly beautiful. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time and it was so hard for me to stop reading when it was time to go to sleep. Or go to work. Or eat dinner. Or whenever because I really didn’t ever want to stop.

Basically, the novel follows the lives of three women in Jackson, Mississippi, one a young woman wanting to be a writer and two who are the domestic help of her friends. Set in the ’60s, it exposes the cultural issues and racial discrimination of the day as these three protagonists come together to write their stories about what it’s like to be a black woman working for a white family (and conversely, what it was like for Skeeter to grow up in that dynamic.) I’m going to tell you, some things are not pretty and you will probably hate a few of the characters and everything they stood for. But just like in every situation, there is so much good if we can find it.

The message of the book seems to be that we are all the same inside: human. Human, with the same feelings and desire for love and family and community and respect. We have to work to understand each other and accept this fact. Easier said than done, I suppose.

This is a short review, mostly because I’m tried from staying up so late to finish! But also because I just honestly am having trouble finding the words so soon after I finished it. This one will probably be a re-reader in the near future, it was just that special and moving.

There’s also a movie coming out in August…pretty sure I’ll be seeing that!

Also pretty sure that I’ve read enough historical fiction for awhile. Time for something fluffy for enjoying poolside – any recommendations for me?

book club: american wife

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I think I’m a little behind the bandwagon on this book, but I don’t care. I’m going to rec it anyway.

I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant to read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, who in all honesty, has never been someone I particularly liked or had a great deal of respect for. But I also didn’t know anything about her except that her name was Laura and she was the First Lady and sort of always looked a little drugged. Sorry if that offended anyone, it was just my very uninformed opinion.

This book was beautiful. I really enjoyed the characterization and the tone of the author. One problem I had is that, like I said before, I know close to nothing about Laura Bush and that made it difficult to judge what was real and what was the imagination of the author. American Wife deals with some pretty serious issues: addiction, abortion, homosexuality, family dynamics…but it manages t do it in a completely relatable way. The character of Alice is a thoughtful and diplomatic woman, able to see many sides of every issue and then form as good a conclusion or decision as possible with the information available.

For me, the most relatable aspect of her character was Alice’s love of reading and her avid consumption of novels. There’s a line in the book about how each novel gives her a temporary filter or new vantage point on her life. I love that idea and see it in myself and my thought processes. When I’m immersed in any fictitious world, I see the real world as a different place and love imagining the world full of whatever characters I’m reading about.

In many reviews I’ve read, people find the ending a bit unsatisfactory. I really liked the ending. I thought it was a complete and thoughtful, and maybe just a little bit sad, description of a woman who didn’t necessarily want the life that was presented before her, but accepted what she could. It may not be a very feminist notion to “hitch yourself” to the life of another, but that’s what marriage is about, no? Joining together and helping each other follow dreams, compromising along the way. Though the supporting the presidency is a pretty big compromise I should think!

Verdict: American Wife is a wonderfully written story and I definitely recommend it!

book club: the sweetness

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sorry for the delay. I have a million excuses, but RL kicked my butt and work got in the way and that is so super boring.

It’s no secret that I love reading. I devour books. I got a nook from Barnes & Noble for Christmas in 2009 and it might be one of my favorite gifts ever. It’s always exciting to me to discover new characters that really get inside your head and open you up to new worlds or help you realize something new about the one we’re in now. I could try to do a favorite books post, but I don’t know how I could narrow it down. Honestly.

When I was living with the rents, my favorite morning was the day that the New York Times Bestseller Lists were published in the Enquirer. I liked getting ideas for what I could read next, though I confess I usually only looked at the fiction list. What can I say? I like to live in a fantasy. One day I found the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie which just sounds hilarious. And weird. I had no idea what it was about, but I was intrigued enough that when I got the nook, I put it on my wish list. And there it has sat for a year or so.

{source: Barnes and Noble}

Until a week ago.

Last week I went to Florida for my company’s annual conference and a mini vacation to visit the Sparks-France home. I hate flying so I’m always sure to bring extra reading material and a million distractions from the fact that I am inatubeflyingintheairwithtonsofpeople and it’salongwaytotheground…Ahem. I finally picked this one to accompany me. And it is brilliant. So much in fact, that I read it in a few days, bought the sequel, also read it in a few days, and am currently on number three in the series.

The book’s narrator and main character is Flavia de Luce, an ingenious and beguiling 11 year old chemist with a knack for finding herself in the middle of murder investigations. With two mean older sisters, a deceased mother, and an absent stamp-collecting father, she finds her self-worth through using her rationality to solve these puzzles in her English countryside village. The series is set post-World War II and is full of amazingly rich and accurate historical details. She’s a complex character and I love the idea of a child voice experiencing and dictating these adult situations.

E says I just love anything with a series, but it’s really more than that in this case (it’s at least not young adult, right?)! I am not ready to give up this character!!!

If you like creative murder mysteries and historical fiction, pick this one!

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