Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Half of December Reading

Last year around this time, I had presented three books to my book group to chose from for the December selection.  Gilead by Marilyn Robinson was one of the three books presented, but not chosen.  This year it was my turn again and I presented Gilead again and to my great pleasure, it was chosen.  This was the third time that I have read Gilead (because I just really like it!).  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

Gilead is the name of a town in Iowa where the Rev. John Ames was raised and still lives in the story.  He is writing a journal to his young son (seven years old) because Rev. Ames doesn't seem to have long to live.  He is about eighty years old and is having some heart issues.  He wants to write a journal for his son to read, hoping to tell his son all that he would have told him if he were alive.  It is a story of three generations: Rev. Ames' father and grandfather, along with his own views and opinions.  The history told in the story is fascinating.  It goes from the Civil War to the twentieth century.  The journal also spends a lot of time discussing Jack Boughton, the son of Rev. Ames' best friend (who is also a reverend in Gilead).  It is a novel that explores the relationships between sons and fathers in a very intimate, revealing way. 

Two side notes:  1) I was very disappointed to have to miss the book group the evening that they discussed Gilead.  I am hopeful that perhaps we can discuss it briefly at the next gathering. 2) Ms. Robinson's next novel, entitled Home is a continuation of Gilead and, in my opinion, even better than Gilead.  However, I would strongly recommend that the novels be read in order.

I was anxious to read Tana French's latest novel Faithful Place.  Ms. French also wrote In The Woods and The Likeness, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Faithful Place did not disappoint.  Like her first two novels, it takes place in Ireland and is a mystery story.

Frank Mackey is a detective who had grown up poor in Faithful Place, part of Dublin's inner city.  As a very young man Frank fell in love with Rosie Daly and they made plans to run off to London to marry and live together.  The night that they were to meet and head off, Rosie never showed up.  It was always assumed that she had gone off without Frank and no one ever heard from her again.  Frank waited all night for her and when morning came and Rosie had not shown up, Frank left and never returned home.  Twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase was found behind a fireplace in an old abandoned house where Frank and Rosie would sometimes go.  Frank's sister contacted him and Frank returned home to try to find out what had become of Rosie.

This was a good mystery story and I am already looking forward to Ms. French's next novel!

Lastly, I read Crow Lake by Mary Lawson.  I had recently read The Other Side of The Bridge by Ms. Lawson and enjoyed her style of writing.  Crow Lake is also a story that takes place in Canada and is a good family study.

The Morrison family consists of the parents and four children.  Education has always been highly valued by the family and when the story begins, the oldest of the four children, Luke, is getting ready to head off to college.  Before Luke can get off, his parents are killed in an accident and Luke decides to give up his opportunity in order to stay there and keep the family together.  It is a great sacrifice and he is totally unequipped to handle the two youngest children, seven year old Kate and Bo, who is still a young baby.  The second oldest child, Matt is in high school.  Luke's expectation is that Matt will go on to college.  However, things don't go as planned and Kate ends up being the one in the family who gets her college education.  Throughout the story, Kate struggles to make sense of the events that occurred when tragedy of another family intersected with their own tragedy.

Another good book!

I have to share my good fortune here...I recently had a birthday and received gift cards to my favorite bookstore!  How lucky am I???