Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

This is an amazing book! The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb is 723 pages long (hardback). There were a couple of reasons why I had not read it before. 1) it is always presented, at least it seemed to me, as a book about Columbine, and I just didn't want to read and revisit that horror, and 2) as much as I love long books, I find them incredibly difficult to read when I am reading in bed! Anyway, after having just read She's Come Undone, and having already have read I Know This Much Is True, I couldn't resist reading his latest work. And, boy, was it worth it! This book combines many of my passions...psychology, addiction and genealogy! [ok, addiction as a passion sounds pretty weird...just that working with addicted women was my life's work...]

Columbine is a central part of the story, especially the aftermath of Columbine. How being there plays into people's lives for always. Caelum Quirk (I love the name Caelum!) and his wife Maureen were teachers at Columbine. Caelum was gone the day of the shootings, tending to the death of an aunt out east, when he heard the news and got a flight straight back to Colorado and desperately searched for his wife. She had hidden in a cabinet in the library during the shootings and survived. However, the Post Traumatic Stress of that almost destroyed their lives.

Caelum and Maureen decide to leave CO and go out to the east coast to Caelum's family farm that he inherited from his aunt. As they struggle to make it there, addiction comes into play and wreaks havoc, as it will. Meanwhile, Caelum rents out the top half of the farm house to a couple escaping Katrina. The woman is working on a doctorate in Women Studies and begins (with Caelum's permission) to go through his grandmother's old papers. His grandmother had begun a local women's prison many years before, with the focus being "A woman who surrenders her freedom need not surrender her dignity." In the papers are letters dating back to the Civil War and forward in time. The papers begin to tell the story of who Caelum's parents were and how his family evolved into what it became.

This, as I said, was just an amazing book. I finished it yesterday and am still thinking about it.

In an afterword, the author said that it took him 9 years to write this book. Yikes. That sounds unbelievable, except that there is so much in the book, that I understand that it would take a long time.

I highly recommend the book if you haven't read it already! Now I am thinking that I need to re-read I know This Much Id True.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In case you are interested.....

Met with my book group last week and it was my turn (my first time!) to present books to the group. We present 3 books, then vote on which to read. My book is for our December meeting. I presented the following 3:

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

In The Woods by Tana French

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

I love all 3 books, but really wanted The Stolen Child to be chosen, since I have never had anyone to discuss it with and I found it fascinating...and it won the vote! Hooray! Then the anxiety kicked in...will they like it, will I still like it, was it a bad choice? etc. etc. I am eager to read it again, which always gives one a slight advantage in discussion of the book, I think, but that will help the discussion, I guess.

It was an interesting experience presenting the books. Gilead is one of my top 5 favorite books (I have read it twice), so I would have been happy if they had chosen it, but after reading Home, the follow-up book, I thought Home was even better! But I didn't want to suggest that they read Home before Gilead, so I didn't present Home. And In The Woods is just a great mystery story! However, another group member had presented it before, and, again, it was not chosen.

[In case you are new to this blog and are interested in my thoughts of the above mentioned books, I reviewed The Stolen Child on 3/27/08, Home on 9/23/08, and In The Woods on 7/7/08. I haven't done a review on Gilead, since I read it before the blog began.]

In a totally unrelated topic, remember how excited I was to be thinking about helping with our new library, serving on a committee or whatever? Well, no one has ever called me. It is very disappointing. Perhaps they still will, but I'm not holding my breath! I had volunteered for the fund-raising committee and they have had several events. Apparently they didn't need my help! Guess they just don't know what they are missing! I like books. I'm a good person. Well, ok, I like books.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wolf Whistle

Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan was the latest book read for my book group. We met this week to discuss it and the book was a great one for discussion. It is the kind of book that before joining the group, I would have wished that I had a group to discuss it with. My book group is so good; it is amazing to hear all that each person gets out of each book. We have great discussions!

Wolf Whistle is based on the true story of Emmett Till, a young black boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman. The two men responsible were acquitted for the murder. Lewis Nordan grew up near the place that all of this occurred and the story is about the murder.

The character's name who is killed is Bobo, who has come to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi to visit from Chicago. He carries a picture of a white woman in his wallet and tells the boys that it is his girlfriend in Chicago, buy it is really a picture of Hedy Lamar. "Bobo said 'That's some good white stuff.'" trying to impress his new friends. Being from Chicago, he did not realize that down in Mississippi there is no joking around about blacks and whites being together.

One day, Lady Montberclair ("she was modern") went into the Red's Goodlookin Bar and Gro to buy tampons. Apparently, Bobo's friends dared him to ask her out or something and he went on in there.

"Everybody else heard it, though, what that spotey little shine did, dared to have did. Runt Conroy sure heard it. Runt heard it and wondered if he could teach his parrot to say hubba-hubba. His parrot couldn't say a word, only sound that durn retarded parrot could make was a noise like a cash register. Maybe it could learn hubba-habba.

Gilbert Mecklin heard it, the housepainter, just about the time he was helping his blind daddy come back up the steps. Gilbert didn't have time to pay it no mind, but he heard it. Heard him whistle, too. Wolf whistle, real low."

Solon Gregg had just arrived back in town and he heard it too. He began confronting Bobo, when Lady intervened and told Bobo to go get into her car.

Solon Gregg is protrayed as the trashiest of all white trash. He sees an opportunity to make some money and goes to Lady's husband with information that she was seen riding around with a young "buck" in her car. Lady's husband is who decides that Solon needs to take care of the situation for him.

This book is somewhat difficult to read because of the violence and just plain ignorance that is portrayed. It is quite horrifying, yet the real story is also, so I don't think that it should be down-played.

There is a great deal of symbolism in the book and quite a bit of humor. It's an interesting read. It was written in 1993 and won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

I recommend it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Lace Reader

"My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.
I am a crazy women...That last part is true."

So begins The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. Why couldn't I keep remembering the first couple of lines of the book? It really would have made it so much easier...well, I think it would have. Maybe not.

The story takes place in Salem,MA where Towner returns after learning of her aunt's disappearance. Her female part of the family has a history of being lace readers predicting the future (yes, reading lace, something along the lines of reading tea perhaps), and her aunt Eva, who is missing, has been an active lace reader for years. Towner also has the ability to read lace, but has suppressed it.

Towner's mother, May, runs an abused women's shelter on an island off the coast of Salem.

Towner left home at 17, going as far away as she thought she could...California. Turns out that Towner has quite a history of mental illness. The book focuses a lot on Towner and her twin sister, Lyndley. According to Towner, Lyndley was given away to May's sister and was raised by her and her abusive husband, Cal. Lydley was sexually abused by her father and killed herself in front of Towner. Again, this is according to Towner. There is a group of religious fanatics led by Cal trying to rid Salem of witches. They are suspected to have killed Eva.

There is a surprise twist to the end of the story. However, I think that if I went back and reread the book, it probably is quite evident, but maybe not. It is the kind of book that really needs to be reread in order to understand all that you just read! But I didn't enjoy it enough to want to go back and reread it. Even after I finished it, the ending confused me. That's why I wish that I had kept it in my head the whole time that Towner lies. I think that the mental illness would be more apparent to me a second time. (well, obviously!).

There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the is very much involved in the history of Salem and the promotion of the perception of witches in Salem. I found that very interesting. I am also curious about lace reading.

Do I recommend the book? Not really. However, I do think that it would make a very interesting book for a book group to discuss!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

She's Come Undone

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb totally took me by surprise. I have come across it many times and from reading the back cover was just never really interested in reading it, although I really liked his other books. I came across this one a couple of weeks ago at the Salvation Army for $0.49, so thought I would try it. I loved it!

It is the story of Delores Price whose life seemingly continuously falls apart beginning as a child, when her mother is institutionalized. She becomes quite attached to her father, only to have him leave after her mother returns. Her parents divorced and she and her mother go live with her maternal grandmother.

Delores is very much her own person and always speaks what's on her mind. I found her hilarious and usually a bit shocking, but there were times that I laughed out loud with the comments she would make to people. The story (her life) is quite complex, always changing and incredibly sad at times.

The only part of the book that made me uncomfortable was her horrible image of herself in regard to her weight. Yet, I know that it rang very true.

There is a bit of everything in this book...lies, grief, mental illness, sex, sexual abuse, etc. But the book is really about recovery! Delores Price is an amazing girl, then woman.

I loved this book! Highly recommend it!