Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catching up on my summer reading

I have read several books since The Human Stain, but none have compared to it so far...yet, I keep trying!

I have read four books lately:

Stoner by John Williams.  I did enjoy this book and I do recommend it.  At face value, it appears to be
a quite simple story:  boy (William Stoner) grew up poor living on a farm in Missouri in the late 1800's.  His teacher recommended that he go on to the university, so his parents managed to send him there to study agronomy.  However, as he began to take the various courses, he found that English literature was what he wanted to study.  Of course, that meant that he would not be returning to the farm to help his father which was a disappointment to his parents.  Then he married a city-bred girl from money, and began teaching at the university.  That further estranged him from his family.  Stoner and his wife had a difficult marriage, and his wife worked at separating Stoner from their only child, Grace.  Stoner's life was a lonely, isolated sad life.  Until he met Katherine.  Stoner then found what love was about, of course, at the price of the rest of his life.  And as the back of the book states:

"Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude."

Good story, good writing.  Side note: the book was written in 1965.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick.  I wasn't real taken with this novel, although I did
finish it, I guess, because I cared enough to find out how the story ended.  This is a story about Charlie Beale, who was a veteran of WWII and who showed up one day in the small town of Brownsburg, Virginia with a suitcase full of cash and a set of butcher knifes.  He went to Will, the local butcher, and convinced Will to give Charlie a try.  Charlie was a good butcher so he was given a job.  Meanwhile, Charlie bought property near the river where he was sleeping out of his truck.  As Charlie and the Will worked together, Charlie also became friends with Will's wife and five year old son, Sam.

Charlie seemed to be searching for a wonderful life.  He attended all of the churches, trying to find one that felt right for him.  He continued to buy up land. And then, he fell hard for the young, beautiful wife of one of the old, wealthy men in town.  Charlie and Sylvan began an extramarital affair.  Charlie bought Sylvan a house, and they would meet there to be alone.  Except that Charlies always took Sam everywhere he went, leaving the five year old boy confused and wondering what Charlie was doing.

The book ends tragically.

It is fairly well-written, but left some things unanswered that perhaps needed to be explained, like who was Charlie really?  Where did his money come from?  Etc.

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle.  This was one of my book groups choice for August.  It was an
amusing story, but didn't hold my interest real well.  It is a novel about a few residents of an independent living home, Pine Haven Retirement Center, in a small town in North Carolina, as they near the end of their lives.  Being who I am, I wanted to know much more about each person's story, so that was disappointing to me.  However, the author does a good job in such a short space of letting you know about each character.  I just wanted more!  Besides the residents of the facility, there are a couple of the staff that are also in the book.  Their lives intertwine with the residents in interesting ways, and serve to show the contrast of stages of life.

Perhaps, it is just me that didn't find the book that great...dealing with aging parents could do that!

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.  I did enjoy this book quite a bit.  It was rather simple, yet there was a lot to it.

In 1850, Hannah Bright, a seamstress and Quaker from England, was struggling with the recent
break-up with her fiance who decided to marry someone else.  Hannah's sister, Grace, was scheduled to travel to America to marry Adam Cox, so Hannah decided to travel with Grace and start a new life for herself.  Sadly, Grace died on the ship they were traveling on, so Hannah arrived in America alone.  She made her way to Ohio where she would have to tell Adam the news that Grace had died.  When Hannah arrived in Faithwell, Ohio where Adam lived, she learned that Adam was living with his sister-in-law, who had been married to Adam's brother who had recently died.  Hannah moved into the house with them, until she met Jacob Haymaker, a local farmer, who wanted to marry her.  Hannah did not feel like she belonged anywhere and so agreed to marry Jacob.  That meant that Hannah had to move to the family home where Jacob's mother, Ruth, ruled. And Ruth did not care for Hannah, so that made life difficult as Hannah attempted to fit into the family.

Hannah had learned about the Underground Railway when she first arrived in Ohio, and she slowly became aware of activities that were going on.  As she began to notice travelers hiding, she began to help those traveling on their way to Canada ( or up north).  Her mother-in-law learned of Hannah's activities and forebade her to help anyone.

The story is about the struggle of speaking of one's beliefs, and actually living that belief.  It was quite a good story of the years before the Civil War, as slavery was pervasive in the South and the slaves were trying to escape.

1 comment:

Bybee said...

You've gotten me interested in reading Stoner. Have to chuckle at the title, though. I know: Immature.