Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith

Um, this post was scheduled to go up ten days ago.  But, apparently, it did not.  Boo to you, Blogger.

This is a new author and new series for me--I hadn't heard of either before.  On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give it a 6.5/7.  I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't a hard-to-put-down story.  However, when I did make time to read it, the chapters flew by quickly, and I liked that.  Precious Ramotswe opens a private detective agency in her village in Botswana.  She has a series of cases and investigations that allow the reader to glimpse into the African culture, which is relatively unfamiliar to me.  I'll confess, more than once during Smith's descriptions of the Kalahari, the opening theme song from "The Lion King" played in my head.

One thing I did like about Romatswe was her internal struggle about changes in culture.  She often reflects how things are best done in the traditional Botswana way.  She doesn't like the gradual Americanizing she sees creeping into her homeland.  However, she's a paradox to her own thinking.  More than once she encounters people who find it peculiar that a woman is taking on a traditionally male occupation.  When this happens she asks if they have ever heard of Agatha Christie.  For her to break this mold is acceptable in her eyes, but she frowns upon similar changes around her.  Maybe I'm reading way too into this, but Precious Ramotswe is a fat African woman who travels in a small white van as she conducts her investigations.  I remember in 7th grade English we watched "Star Wars" and my teacher, Mr. Schroeder, explained that the Storm Troopers' uniforms were white with black showing from beneath, symbolizing their dark motives beneath a cloak of righteous changes.  So, in my mind, some analytic part of my seventh-grade subconscious latched onto this fat African lady in a small white van imagery, in the way it reflects her wanting to hang onto the old traditional ways inside, but ways on the outside are adapting to western culture whether you want it or not.  Maybe that was a gross over-generalization of a culture to which I am grossly ignorant.  I'm not trying to say anything about African culture, just an insight into Romatswe's struggle with culture adjustments.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Driven" by Larry H. Miller

Stop number three on the biography train!  Toot toot!  (I know that was a ridiculously cheesy into--but I won't apologize for it!).

I picked up "Driven" because, well, like most books, friends and family had talked about it and made me curious.  And because it was an autobiography, I couldn't help myself.  I did borrow it from a friend, but covered most of the book on audio CD.  Thank heavens for my iPod.  (Tangent:  My hubby bought that for me on Valentine's day when our second child was less than a week old.  He said he knew I would just love it.  Truthfully, I had never once thought an iPod was something I needed.  Even though it's an older model, it does exactly what I need it to do, and it is a wonderful little gadget.  It's even my favorite color--green.)

Larry H. Miller is an iconic figure for the state of Utah.  The funny thing is, I lived in Utah until I was 24 and I didn't realize how far-reaching his business and philanthropic dealings were.  That man, through his goodness of heart and talents, did so much for the state of Utah.  He didn't just own the Utah Jazz and dozens of car dealerships.  He had pet projects that benefited groups as well as individuals.  He really wanted to make the community better.  He wanted to do so much good with his life and money there wouldn't be any more good things to do.  He was an impressive man.

But, like all men, he had significant downfalls.  His biggest shortcoming was fatherhood.  He pretty much missed out on his children's upbringing because he confused being the breadwinner as fulfilling his role as father.  But I think after he realized the magnitude of his mistake, he tried his best to make it up to his adult children.  And his poor wife, Gale, taking care of five children and a busy husband.  But I'll have to say, having the kind of resources that were available to her probably made the near-single-parent mode she endured for so many years a bit easier to shoulder.  

I loved the audio book because the epilogue was written and read by Gale Miller.  It almost seemed her voice cracked with emotion several times, but who am I to say that's not what she normally sounds like.  

The book was published posthumously; Larry Miller died on February 20, 2009.  The book was published in 2010.  Doug Robinson, a Deseret News writer, was working on the book with Larry for the last seven months prior to his death.  

I really recommend this read.  Even if you don't know anything about Utah, or don't really care to learn anything about Utah.  I think Utah and Utahns are a misunderstood group of people, and I think this man's life could teach you a thing or two about that unique and special place.