Monday, March 25, 2013

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel

Seven years ago when my strapping 1st grade son was a tiny little newborn, I read "Life of Pi."  I loved it.  Fast-forward to a few months ago when my husband and I were in the movie theater and the previews started rolling.  All I needed to see was a zebra swimming within the hull of a ship and I started bouncing in my seat chanting, "Life of Pi!  Life of Pi!" and nearly ripping his arm off in my excitement.  Then my book club selected it for this month's read.  Then the person who was going to host the discussion forgot she was going to be in Mexico on vacation during our club meeting (how do you FORGET a trip to Mexico?!) and would be unable to fulfill her obligation, so I volunteered to take her place.  And I just finished reading it during a luxurious soak in my bathtub.

There were a few details I remembered from my first read-through, but all things considered, I might as well have been reading it for the first time for all I'd forgotten.  It's a story within a story within a story.  Once you get through it and understand the conclusion of the tale, you'll want to go back and reread it to see the symbolism and symmetry you weren't looking for the first time.  Unless you're incredibly intelligent and caught it all the first time, which I am not and did not.  I loved the facets of the story of religion and survival.  Being a religious person myself, I loved Pi's reaction to the different churches and perspectives on deity.  The Indian culture, the boat sinking, the animals, survival, Richard Parker.  This story was so inventive and dimensional and lovely.  I hope this is one you follow through and read, then come back and tell me what you think.

No, I haven't seen the movie yet!  It actually came out on video today (well, the day I'm writing this, not the day you're reading it, hehehe).  I don't know when I'll get around to seeing it, but I hope it's soon.  When I do see it I'll be sure to come back and let you know what I think, because I know that's important to you.  When I present this discussion to my book club, I plan on serving...drum roll please...pie!  (I can reveal that because by the time this publishes, book club will be long past and over with and no surprises will be spoiled.  Although, I'm pretty sure pie isn't that clever for refreshments.  I just revel in my own silliness.)

Long live Pi!

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

"The Poisonwood Bible."  Where to start?  I wonder if I'm bothered with seasonal affective disorder, or if I'm just plain grumpy.  Because whenever I start asking myself what I'm going to write in this review, the answers aren't pretty.  I simply didn't like it.  It wasn't 100% awful, but I wasn't fond of it.

I had a hard time jumping into it.  A book needs to pull me in, make me hesitate to come up for air.  But this had no draw.  I forced myself to read through it like swimming in cement.

I hated The Reverend Nathan Price.  I mean, I think the reader is supposed to hate him.  I'd really be afraid of the mental stability of anyone who liked Nathan Price.  But he was such an unforgivable character.  He didn't change or learn or adapt.  He was psychotic.  He made me angry.  He didn't understand anything about human beings, American or African.  Zero redeeming qualities.

I also struggled with Orleanna Price until the middle of the book, where she finally gets to explain why she is who she is and how she got there.  I could forgive her zombie behavior after that.  She earned some redemption.

I felt nothing but sympathy for the poor daughters, who had no choice in ending up in Africa.  The twins I think had the purest souls, and Rachel was just vain and ignorant.  I was proud of Adah for moving past her deformity and allowing herself to create a new identity, and I felt pity for Leah for choosing a love and a life where she could never totally belong in any world.

There was no happiness in the book.  No hope.  No silver lining, not even a tarnished one. Everything was malaria and deadly politics.  That's not very generous of me.  But what about a happy scene (or two?) to propel the reader through all the poverty and illness?  I know the depictions of African history were real; life wasn't fair at all and always an uphill battle for survival. But the harsh reality doesn't mean they never had happy moments.  The book got me thinking about life and humanity, of course, but it was generally depressing.  Thank goodness for Rachel's narratives for some comic relief, which were only funny because she herself was a parasite trying to survive, not because she had two brain cells to rub together to spark her own wit.

And it wasn't what I would call a sad book.  Yes, there were many deaths and tragedies and set-backs.  But  to be sad there has to be some happiness sprinkled in it.  It was uninspiring.  And I think writing, no matter what genre, should inspire or motivate the reader in some form or measure.  And this book didn't just miss the mark, it wasn't even aiming in the right direction.

Monday, March 4, 2013

"In Search of Heaven: The Barrington Family Saga Volume 1" by Anita Stansfield

So, I'm a little bashful about this one.  I think there's a stigma about LDS authors such as Stansfield; either you think the genre is pertinent religious-based literature, or you think it's a load of cheese.  I'm not a fan but I do not condemn her writing.  I had my own reasons for reading this one, which I'm choosing to keep to myself (neener, neener).  I actually read this about 4 years ago, and it's the first of a series.  I won't be finishing the series, but I do want to read another Stansfield book to see if her style goes across the board or if she changes her voice depending on the theme of the book.

To sum up "Heaven," Eleanore is a young English woman who is a servant in the house of Lord James Barrington.  She has the opportunity to be promoted to governess of his children after the death of his wife.  With time he proposes a marriage of convenience as he makes plans to travel to America.  Eleanore accepts, for she has her own reasons for wanting to go to America.  She had discovered a strange new book of scripture and has keen desires to align herself with the religion that follows it.   Eleanore must overcome the trial of her marriage of convenience.  Her husband is a good man and treats her well, but she discovers that even though she married for practicality and an irresistible opportunity, she has fallen in love with him.  His heart was injured by his first wife, and he believes he can never love again.  Eleanore battles with being happier and more blessed than she ever anticipated, but despite all she has, she wants the love her husband denies her.

If you're not LDS (Latter-day Saint), this kind of story will probably seem ridiculous and predictable.  Even I sometimes thought the predicaments polished up far too neatly. But I adored the principles that drove the story line.  And I'm a girl--a predictable love story is always welcome.