Tuesday, July 7, 2015

BOOKS: Assorted Literature

The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver

I've read several Kingsolver books already (Flight Behavior; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Poisonwood Bible) but I had never read any of her early work. The Bean Trees was a delightful and quirky debut novel. Taylor graduates from high school and to escape her Appalachian dismal future, hits the road and heads west. Along the way, she picks up a baby to adopt, and she and Turtle, the baby, land in Arizona. The book becomes about making your family, fitting in, and finding your place. The friendship between Taylor and LouAnn, another young girl with a child, was very touching.  There is a sequel, Pigs in Heaven that I might look into. It's a book to be shared and enjoyed.

Emily, Alone - Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O'Nan is one of those versatile, reliable authors that I pick up now and then. (Last Night at the Lobster, The Night Country) Emily, Alone is the second book about Emily Maxwell, but this seems fine on its own. Emily's husband has died and she's reluctantly settling into widowhood. Not much happens but life goes on. She gets the house ready for Christmas because 'everyone is coming' and she is really looking forward to it, but of course, it doesn't work out perfectly like she wants. Emily's a bit crotchety, and doesn't like change. The book is simply a character study, also about families.

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr (audiobook)

 Each time I think I've read enough WW2 books, but then another one comes along with a compelling story. Here, two separate orphans, a German boy with a talent for radios, and a blind French girl living under Occupation, each trying to get along in the war years, with the two separate stories eventually colliding. There is also a legend about a famous jewel, some nasty Nazis, art history, and French resistance (which was my favorite part). This was a long audiobook, but kept my interest and was a great listen.

A Sudden Light - Garth Stein (audiobook)

Multi-generational tale with secrets and supernatural that didn't appeal to me as much as I would have liked. A fourteen year old Trevor and his father head to the father's family home in Seattle during a separation/divorce. There were a lot of previous generations to keep straight, many father-son duos that did not get along. Each next generation had different ideas about the sustainability of the trees, and the need to make money. Trevor's aunt was most annoying and creepy, and I never got a good feel for Trevor's age. Most books with a kid coming to realizations about their parents or the world are in the ten, eleven age (see Stephen King for excellent examples of how to work eleven year old characters) but the author needed Trevor closer to an age where sex is possible, so he was an awkward fourteen, sometimes young, sometimes old. There are many topics tackled, including Alzheimer's, hidden gay relationships, ghosts, greed, tree-industry in the Northwest. It was difficult for me to keep track which is my issue with audiobooks, but I also didn't like any of the characters, at all. And I don't have to like the characters, but I needed something more. I finished it, but did contemplate stopping. I'll still try The Art of Racing in the Rain, the author's book, which seemed to be all the rage a while ago.