Monday, September 29, 2008

The Kitchen God's Wife- Amy Tan

This is a novel about a mother with secrets who is forced one day to share them with her daughter. The story centers around WWII in China. Winnie the mother, shares her upbringing as a second class citizen despite a wealthy birthright, her tragic marriage to an evil man, and her eventual escape. Its a beautiful novel, exquisitely written, and the characters spring to live and feel as real as people I see in the flesh. She does a great job taking you into the story, and though I am a writer seeking tips from good writers by observing their work.... here, I find that I cannot study, to read is to be absorbed in. I highly recommend it particularly to those who love ethnic literature.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Senator's Wife- Miller

This is a novel about the wife of a former Senator who has endured her husnand's infidelity with her love for him intact. Paralleling this story is the story of her neighbor Meri who is newly married and pregnant and dealing with a lot of insecurities about her life. I felt intrigued by the insight into the life of a wife who "stands by her man" despite his cheating ways, this is not the book I actually read.

If you finish a book and find yourself feeling nauseated.... that's not good. This book was such a best seller that I grew curious and waited the months it took for it to become available in the library and boy was I disappointed. The writers mantra is: SHOW NOT TELL.... but all she does is tell, tell, tell, in excruciating boring detail and the ending is just plain old WEIRD.

Don't waste your time with this book. Life is too short.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth- Lahiri

Lahiri writes beautifully and this book is no exception. These are short stories on American raised desis and their experiences in the United States. Generally, I love her work and for what it is I love it. I do however wish she would write beyond her standard fall backs. Almost all her characters are PhDs or dating PhDs, they all go to high end ivy leagues, all of them marry White Americans with very Ango names, and all of them just dont get their parents or the culture they once had. ALL OF THEM. Which tires me since Namesake was similar as well. She could have one where two desis fall in love (well she sort of does at the end but still...), or what the others outside of PhD people are up to. My favorite was her first short story because it was poignant and well told and I loved the ending. I loved Hell-Heaven. I thought the story of yearning for love was so poignant and the ending was both shocking and touching. The three part trilogy of Hema and Kaushik was good too but it took me thinking about it the day after to truly appreciate it for its depth. The ending leaves you angry, but then later you realize that ***warning spoiler*** his death in some ways implies to me this story was more than a 'love story' (which it was a weak love story in my opinion), but more so an example of the many ordinary people who died in the Tsunami and the lives they led. In some ways as I ponder the story more and more it might just become my favorite story.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The House on Mango Street

I read the reviews of this book on Amazon and was not surprised to see the ratings. Half loved it, half hated it. I think its very easy to read this book quickly, wonder what the big deal is with it and discard it as boring drivel. I think that is far from the truth though. This is a story of a girl living in a poor neighborhood, finding her way. Its a book that beautifully captures hopelessness and hope, both poetically done. There is no plot per se except for a girl who is trying to grow up in a rough neighborhod observing life unfold around her.

There were parts of the book which nearly broke my heart. The writing is raw and some of the metaphors are striking. I think to fully understand the book, you should check out/buy the one with the introduction by the author. I know that reading her introduction helped me better understand her book.

Ordinary People- Judith Guest

This is a novel about a family dealing with loss. Two brothers went on a boating trip and one drowned. The one who survived is wracked with grief and guilt. The mother grows increasingly distant and aloof. The father tries to fix everything and keep himself together.

I liked the book though at times it was hard to follow with a whole lot of dialogue without enough explanation of what was happening or who was speaking.

I saw snippets of the movie which is what spurred my interest in the book, but truth be told I think the movie might be a tad more emotional.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Firm- John Grisham

I've read a bunch of books written in a medicore style recently and reading Grisham is just so much fun that I was relieved to finally read a great story with a catchy plot and writing that was good. Sure, Grisham's book "The Firm" does not make you ponder the deeper meaning of life, but it sure does keep you reading and keep you completely engrossed. This is a great book and its oodles of fun!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Tortilla Curtain- TC Boyle

This is an interesting well written book. A car accident between a rich environmentalist and an impoverished illegal immigrant is the backdrop for the rest of the novel. We learn about the lives of each of these characters. Candido lives like an animal in a Southern California Canyon with his wife America. She is pregnant and holds on to the dream that their circumstances will improve. The rich guy is a stay home dad writer whose wife is a real estate agent and they live in a privileged life wondering how best to build barriers in their subdivision to keep out the immigrants and other undesirables. This is a very bare bones explanation of this novel, which is complex with many different messages and themes. Overall it was superbly written but I was left unsatisfied with the ending. Here are my thoughts on the novel though (warning don't read further if you don't want spoilers):

1. Candido's life had NO silver lining, it continued to get worse and worse. It was too the point of "too much"...
2. I get the feeling the story was less about the characters and more about the concepts, this helped me with the very ambigious ending which really did not provide much of a conclusion.
3. I think he hit us over the head with his message and it kind of nauseated me by its conclusion.

Split- A memoir of divorce- Finnamore

I never heard of a book that planned to accurately capture the harsh reality of divorce so I eagerly awaited this book. The book is a good memoir of a writer reflecting on the end of her marriage, her spouse leaving her and her toddler son behind for another woman. She goes through the stages of grief, denial, anger acceptance, etc, and tells her story in small vignettes. It took me some time to get past her writing style. I know some people love her writing but I am thrown off by it. Its very detached, I feel like I can never really get close to her, or fully feel her pain because of the way she writes. I also wish she could have come up with fake names for her hubby and son instead of writing A and N to refer to them. First, most of us know the names of her husband and son since she's referred to them in the past in interviews so its silly to give them abbreviations, but second, its annoying to read letters, just put in a fake name and it would help the story flow much better. All this being said, its a good book once I got into it, and though not perfect, does a decent job.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Shoe Addicts Anonymous- Harbison

The book had a cute concept. A group of women who love shoes meet on a Craigslist like listserv and exchange shoes and discuss their issues helping each other along the way. This book was written like a first time writer. Though Beth has written romance novels in the back, this was her first foray out. I think the plot was good, but the writing just tended to distract me. It felt like my own novel, but two drafts ago. Still, it was okay.