Monday, June 13, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone

As soon as I finished this collection of short stories by Siobhan Fallon I wrote down a few possible themes that run throughout- obligation, fear, silence, order, family. In the middle of reading this wonderful book I wrote down- "so much left unsaid." Soldiers don't speak of the fear they experience while out on a mission, wives don't mention the suspicions they have that their soldier isn't faithful, families don't share the separate hardships they endured while the other was away. It seems very unhealthy but understood.

Fallon pulls the curtains back and let's all of us look closely at military families- how the wives function and support each other while their husbands are deployed, what our soldiers experience as they fulfill their commitment, how difficult it is for everyone when families are reunited.

This is a timely book that would help everyone have a deeper appreciation for everyone involved in protecting our country.

Between Shades of Gray

"Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?"

Near the end of Between Shades of Gray this is the question that is asked. It hits you in the gut and stays with you. When I finished this book and took another trip to the public library I wasn't ready to turn it in.

Ruta Sepetys has written a beautiful account of Lithuanian families being torn apart and hidden away in Siberia so that the Soviets could take over their country. Sepetys herself is the daughter of Lithuanian refugees who escaped to Germany.

This could have easily been the same story that we have all read- families rounded up, put on trains, carried away from everything they know, mistreated, etc. It is that story but the writing is so well done that it is a whole new story. The characters that Sepetys brings to life on the page were so real. Each person was an important to piece to the whole story and are still in my thoughts.

Her writing style was well accomplished- a perfect mix of sentence length, and boy does she know how to bring a chapter to a close. I knew that I was very connected to the characters and just knew that I was going to cry as some of them inevitably died. But that wasn't what caught my heart off guard. (Possible spoiler) The scene that was so unexpected and touching was knowing that clean clothes were saved (and not worn as layers in the freezing temps) through their whole ordeal so that they could be worn when they returned to their homes. It was a beautiful image of hope.

I learned about a chapter in history that I wasn't aware of. This story would be enjoyed by adults and young adults.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

When I downloaded this book to my Kindle Tuesday night I was pretty sure it was a memoir about cancer. I didn't remember that it was about breast cancer or I probably wouldn't have begun reading it. On Tuesday I had my first mammogram and ultrasound and was able to put to rest the fears I had been carrying around for over a month after finding a lump in my breast. The nurse sounded almost certain that what she saw on the screen is a cyst. So, as I read The Middle Place I wavered between feeling like I needed more distance between my experience and reading about the author's and feeling like I had just bought some cheap therapy.

The Middle Place is a memoir about cancer, growing up, raising children, confronting life's trials. The title refers to that time in life when you still depend on your parents but you have people depending on you also. Corrigan alternates between short episodes from her younger years and a chronicle of her and her father's cancer treatment. She battled breast cancer at the same time her father was battling bladder cancer. Corrigan has a very close relationship with her father and many of her stories showcase his uniqueness and what draws people to him.

The author is a flawed person, just like the rest of us, and I think that is why I like the book so much (and other memoirs). She loses her temper with her children, starts unnecessary arguments with her husband, and seems to want to give the advice that she needs to hear to others in her life. Sound familiar to anyone?!?

The only disappointment I had was the lack of a lesson/realization by the author. I find it hard to believe that you and your father fight cancer at the same time and you don't come out different on the other side. She doesn't seem very reflective about the experience. There might be a hint of a lesson learned in one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Someday, some later day, I'll find out what it is to be an adult- to bury someone essential, someone you don't think you can live without, someone attached in so many place you almost fall in after them." Beautiful words...

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best of 2010 and Looking Forward

So it's time to look back at what I read this past year and name my faves. I had a goal of reading 50 books this year and I came really close. The holiday madness seemed to get in the way. I finished book 48 (The Queen of Palmyra) as our neighbors fired off annoying fireworks last night! I will make the goal this year to read 50. I am also a writer and am working on a YA novel and will spen most of my time this coming year reading other YA novels similar to what I want to write. I will also read aduly fiction also.

TOP TEN OF 2010:

Mudbound by Jordan (probably my go to recommendation for friends. I actually read this book twice this year!)
The Sky Unwashed by Zabytko
Carry Me Home by Kring
The Help by Stockett (This was my top fave last year. I read it again this year for a book club)
Chains by Anderson
Unbroken by Hillenbrand
State of Wonder by Patchett (I haven't read a thing about this book but love her other work!)
To Have Not by Lefkowitz (Love the cover of this book!)
Lord of Misrule by Gordon
Half a Life by Strauss

What will you be reading in 2011? Happy Reading!