Monday, October 22, 2012

"These is My Words," "Sarah's Quilt," and "The Star Garden" by Nancy E. Turner


"Wait a second!" I can hear you thinking.  Micaela just reviewed one of those books by that author!  Well, ladies and gentlemen, lovers of good books, that's because we read the same book!  She actually read it a while before me, but she only just wrote her review of it.  I read it this past month for my book club then hosted a discussion on it last night.  (I learned if I write reviews on book club books before I go to book club, some of my friends already know what I'm going to say, and then I feel ridiculously redundant.)

I did pick up this book because Micaela liked it so much.  I also enjoyed the story of Sarah Agnes Prine, who is in fact the great-grandmother of the author.  Although "These is My Words" is heavily fictionalized, Sarah Prine was a genuine pioneer in the Arizona Territories in the late 19th century.  The story is 20 years of Sarah's diary, from 1881-1901, beginning when she's 17 years old.  She recounts a myriad of characters and experiences from the pioneer trail and life in the territory, love and loss, hardship and victory.

As the diary begins, Sarah's thirst for knowledge is evident, even though her use of language is rough.  As the story develops and Sarah forges her own path, so does the language mature and become more polished.

"Sarah's Quilt" picks up a few months after "These is My Words" ends.  Although it's still written in a diary format with dated entries, it read less like the style of the first book and more like a first-person narrative novel.  Book 1 reads how someone would speak to a friend, a little choppy and very informal.  But that's what made it an endearing method of story-telling.  "Sarah's Quilt" and "The Star Garden" are still from Sarah's perspective, but they are far more technically correct as far as writing style goes; a bit of the familiarity is lost.

"Sarah's Quilt" is only about 6-8 months in duration, and it's as long as the 20 years covered in the first book.    It's detail-rich.  "The Star Garden" covers a period of 5 years following "Sarah's Quilt."  I like how the 2nd and 3rd books let the reader follow how Sarah and her family change and grow, especially  how children and different relatives have their own stories going on.

Although I liked all three books, "These is My Words" was my favorite, and I think "The Star Garden" was a tad indulgent of the author.  I mean indulgent the same way Simon Cowel used indulgent to describe the way some singers on American Idol sang because they liked the sound of their own voice.  Am I coming through loud and clear?

Turner has another book, "The Water and the Blood."  I will probably read it someday.  Once you find an author you enjoy, it's fun to explore all their works.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson is used to multitasking as the VP for marketing of a high-profile consulting firm in Boston, MA and a mom to three young children. Her busy life comes to an abrupt halt when she has an accident and suffers severe brain damage. Her diagnosis: Left Neglect. The left side of her world becomes non-existent and she has to retrain her brain to remember the left.
The author has a neuroscience doctorate from Harvard and I feel like her experience(s) helped her be able to tell this fictional story accurately. It was hard to understand that somebody could just lose the left of their whole world. Not only is Sarah not aware of the left side of her body, there is not a left side of the room, plate, book, etc. She can't even understand the meaning of "turn left". I can't imagine not knowing that my left existed!
I couldn't help but laugh a little at the beginning when she is comparing herself to stay at home moms and that she was shocked to find out that a lot of women have degrees and choose not to work. I wonder if this is a bit of the author's own perspective on SAHMs. I'm one of those degreed women who choose to stay at home, so I didn't relate to this woman who worked 80+ hours a day and just barely made it home in time to read bedtime stories. ;) However, I enjoyed seeing her inner transformation as she was willing to slow down and re-evaluate what really matters in life.
The most interesting part of this book was that I have a friend who goes to church with me that was diagnosed with Left Neglect when she was 21. We were able to talk to her during our book club about what she experienced. She said the book was very accurate in describing what having Left Neglect feels like. It was neat to get a first-hand perspective on this neurological syndrome.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

It's been a long time since I've read a biography. I had several friends suggest that I read Unbroken. The book is about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, who was drafted in World War II. His plane was shot down over the Pacific and, after surviving 47 days on a raft at sea, he and the pilot were sent to POW camps in Japan. For almost 2 1/2 years, he survived countless acts of physical and mental abuse.

I was a little surprised at how well I liked this book. I think I've stayed away from biographies a lot mostly because I thought they would be full of tedious boring stuff. Haha. Boy was I wrong. I LOVE learning things about other people's lives and this was right up my alley. I devoured it! It disturbs me to think of the atrocities that one human being can inflict on another just because he thinks he can or should have the power to do so. What amazes me more, however, is the power and strength that the human mind, body and spirit are capable of. Things that you would think would be impossible to endure... It truly is amazing. I also loved that he was able to find God and forgiveness a few years after he came back. This book left me feeling very inspired and grateful for the examples we have in those who are able to forgive and let go.