Friday, April 29, 2011

A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer

A Ship Made of PaperThis is a love story.  Daniel Emerson is a New York City lawyer who has returned to his hometown of Leyden, N.Y., a picturesque Hudson Valley village, with his girlfriend Kate, a novelist, and her daughter, Ruby. Kate drinks and obsesses about the O.J. Simpson trial instead of writing fiction. Daniel finds himself falling in love with Iris Davenport, an African-American grad student at the local university. Iris is married to Hampton Welles, an investment adviser. The book records Iris and Daniel's affair from both perspectives and poses the question, is their fleeting happiness really worth so much ruin?

It is entertaining.  At times, this is more about interracial relationships than an affair.  I didn't like how Kate and Hampton are both very unlikeable characters....probably to help us find Daniel and Iris' affair less objectionable to our moral standards and maybe even to sympathize with them when they each have such unappealing spouses.  Still, it is an enjoyable enough read that I am staying with it for quotes such as this: "Time passes, bodies decay, every day spent without love is lost forever, the time cannot be recaptured or made up for."

There are enough twists to the story to keep your interest.  The ending felt hanging but, I think it was to show that nothing in life ends how we want and is definitely not in a neat and tidy box.

Rating: 4.2 Good

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

I picked this book as it was in my queue.  I couldn't remember who recommended it (thank you!!!) or what it was about.  The only preconceived notion I had was that Ann Patchett had written Bel Canto and I enjoyed that immensley.  I was probably 100 pages in before I discovered that one of the "characters" name was Ann Patchett and I quickly realized I wasn't reading a beautiful work of fiction but, an even more amazingly beautiful memoir.

This is about friendship -- between Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett -- and shares many insights into the nature of devotion. One of the best instances of this concerns a fable of ants and grasshoppers. When winter came, the hard-working ant took the fun-loving grasshopper in, each understanding their roles were immutable. It was a symbiotic relationship. Like the grasshopper, Grealy, who died of cancer at age 39 in 2002, was an untethered creature, who liked nothing more than to dance, drink and fling herself into Patchett's arms like a kitten. Patchett tells this story chronologically, in bursts of dialogue, memory and snippets of Grealy's letters, moving from the unfolding of their deep connection in graduate school and into the more turbulent waters beyond. Patchett describes her attempts to be a writer, while Grealy endured a continuous round of operations as a result of her cancer. Later, when adulthood brought success, but also heartbreak the duo continued to be intertwined, even though their link sometimes seemed to fray.

This gorgeously written chronicle unfolds as an example of how friendships can contain more passion and affection than any in the romantic realm. And although Patchett unflinchingly describes the difficulties she and Grealy faced in the years after grad school, she never loses the feeling she had the first time Grealy sprang into her arms.

Rating: 4.6 Recommend

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never HappenedAnnabelle McKay's midlife crisis as her empty-nest marriage to historian Grant falls into the doldrums, flashes from current day back to the 1970's when they first met.  Annabelle and Grant love each other deeply, but the glue that holds their marriage together might not be enough once the kids are (mostly) grown. The new emptiness in their house begins to fill up with dangerous thoughts and emotions related to an earlier, difficult time in their life together, a time they have agreed never to speak of again. This chapter in their marriage becomes "the stuff that never happened." It did happen, though, and when a new crisis in their lives threatens to break through the silence, Annabelle and Grant have to face the ramifications of keeping their mutual secret. This book is wry, witty, cynical and worldly.

Rating: 4.4 Very Good

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Traveling Light by Katrina Kittle

Traveling LightIt's generally thought that the story of a man or woman "coming of age" is about their struggle to define themselves and their place in the world when they are young and moving into adulthood. Certainly that is true. But the process is one that never really ends. Things like injury, illness, or tragedy can force us to re-examine our lives and our place in the world.

Such is the story of Summer Zwolenick. An injury to her ankle has ended her promising dance career. Her brother is slowly losing his fight with AIDS. Her grandmother is losing a battle with cancer. Her new life as a teacher at a small-town school seems ungratifying to her. There is a lot to force her to re-examine who she is and where she's going. And she's made a promise to her brother. It's this promise that Summer is struggling to fulfill through out the book.

This book was incredibly honest and at times, was uncomfortable in the reality of a long slow death.

Rating: 4.6 Recommend

Saturday, April 2, 2011

While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty

While I'm Falling One day, Veronica Von Holten is happy, med-school bound, in love with her boyfriend and not far from her supportive family. Then her father finds another man in the bed he shares with his wife of 26 years. As a messy divorce ensues, Veronica struggles to keep her own life in check while her mother's unravels, and a car accident, a house-sitting gig gone bad and an illicit kiss turn Veronica's personal life upside down.

I like the "falling" analogy of Veronica falling love, falling behind in her college courses and so many people's lives falling falling.

This is a light and enjoyable read that truly captures the emotional trauma of instances/choices in your life and how it forces you to grow up.

Rating: 3.9 Good

Friday, April 1, 2011

Brothers by Yu Hua

Brothers: A Novel14 year old Baldy Li is caught peeping at womens bottoms in a latrine. The novel flashes back giving you the history that on the same day his father slips to a disgraceful demise while ogling women in a public toilet. The incident is big news in tiny Liu Town, China, and leaves the family tainted with shame. Yet even as Baldy Li and his mother, Li Lan, cower under the taunts of their neighbors, things begin to change for the better. The tall, handsome Song Fanping falls in love with Li Lan and marries her. Li Lan gains new happiness and Baldy Li gains an older stepbrother, Song Gang. I just couldn't get in to this book so decided to move on to others in my queue.

Rating: 1 Do not recommend