Thursday, January 27, 2011

January's Reading (so far!)

I read The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow for one of my book groups.  It is a book that I had considered reading ever since it came out, but had never gotten around to it, so I was pleased when it was chosen as one of our reads. 

The book is a non-fiction story of a forty-year friendship between eleven girls/women who grew up in Ames, Iowa.  As expected, all eleven did not remain in Ames as they grew up and they ended up in eight different states.  All of the eleven stayed in contact with each other and once a year as many of them as possible would meet up somewhere for a long weekend.   As you can imagine, over the forty years, they shared many joys and tragedies.  Most married and had children. There were divorces and deaths.  And there was enduring friendship and support.

I think that most women reading this book could identify with it, even if you only had one very best friend growing up.  Reading it brought back lots of memories of friends.

The only fault that I can find with the book is that it seemed to be too long.  About half-way through, I felt bogged down with all of the details.  Yet, saying that, I did enjoy the book. 

For my other book group, we read Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates.  Ms. Oates is one of my favorite authors and I had not read this book, so again, I was pleased with the choice. 

This was a very interesting book and led to great discussion in the book group.  It is the story of two young women, Genna and Minette, who end up roommates their freshman year of college in 1975.  Partly through their freshman year, Minette died in a mysterious accident.  Fifteen years later, Genna is still trying to make sense of the relationship that they had. 

From the back of the book:
In 1975 Genna Hewett-Meade's college roommate died a mysterious, violent death partway through their freshman year.  Minette Swift had been assertive, fiercely individualistic, and one of the few black girls at their exclusive, "enlightened" college-and Genna, daughter of a prominent civil defense lawyer, felt duty-bound to protect her at all costs.  But fifteen years later, while reconstructing Minette's tragic death, Genna is forced to painfully confront her own past life and identity...and her deepest beliefs about social obligation in a morally gray world.

Neither Genna nor Minette came across as likable characters.  They both had deep flaws that set them up for their tenuous relationship. And, in the end, it appears that the story may really be about Genna's father!

Very interesting book.  I did not find it very similar to Ms. Oates' other works, although the character flaws may be somewhat similar to characters in her other books.

Next I read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.  Excellent read!

One day Dr. Andrew Marlowe (a psychiatrist) receives a phone call from a colleague requesting Dr. Marlow to take on a patient who had been arrested for attacking a painting at the National Gallery of Art.  The patient was Robert Oliver, a well-respected artist in his own right.  Dr. Marlow is also an artist, so he is quite interested in admitting Robert to his clinic and working with him.  However, Robert is not responsive to anyone and basically refuses to talk.  As Dr. Marlow begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding Robert, he gets pulled in to Robert's life and his obsessions with the distant past. 

The story is quite a good mystery with some twists and turns.  I enjoyed it immensely!

And my most recent read was The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards.  Ms. Edwards wrote The Memory Keepers Daughter, which I had liked very much, so I was quite excited to see that she had a new book out.  This book was fascinating for me as it involved genealogy research! 

It is the story of Lucy Jarrett who returns home from Japan for a visit after having been away for quite awhile.  Her father had died under strange circumstances ten years earlier and she returned home to find that her mother was not only seeing someone, but was considering selling the family home.  One night, Lucy was wandering around the home and noticed a lock on a window seat that she had never noticed before.  Inside, Lucy discovered some objects that revealed a hidden family history.  As Lucy researches the information she becomes more involved in the history (the curse and glory of all genealogists!) and continues to unravel long ago secrets that evetually affect her family now.

This was a good "story of love lost and found".

I need to add a sad note to the end of this post.  Reynold Price died last week.  He was one of my all time favorite authors, who I consider one of the best Southern authors ever.  If you haven't read any of his books, I highly recommend them. I have been reading his memoir Clear Pictures for the past month off and on, so will review it soon.  Reynolds Price 1933-2011.

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