Fly Away Home

I’ve been mostly drawn to horror books lately. Maybe its the weather and the season. But this is the second Jennifer Weiner book I’ve read in the last two months, which must mean something. I think there’s something very personal and inviting in her novels, and Fly Away Home is no exception.

In this novel, the Woodruff family’s three women take turns telling their stories. The matriarch, Sylvie, has been the perfect politician’s wife for the past couple of decades. Her oldest daughter, Diana, has worked her whole life to be the perfect daughter and now is a successful doctor who is married with a son. Lizzie, the youngest, who has not fared as well and comes up short in the perfection department, has recently been released from rehab. With all the perfection in the family working hard for Senator Richard Woodruff, there’s not a lot of time for real emotion and love to be expressed.

It isn’t until Richard’s extramarital affair makes the news, that the perfect family has to struggle with the damage that perfection has caused. Finally free from the restrictions of her life, Sylvie hides at her Connecticut beach house and rediscovers parts of her that have been hidden behind the perfect facade. Diana, who is also having an extramarital affair, realizes that the appearance of a perfect marriage is far from her reality. She played it safe and is now seeking the passion that she missed out on. Lizzie is struggling with her black-sheet stigma and is trying to create a life for herself where she doesn’t have to hide behind her drugs. All three are seeking their true selves and once they start they can begin mending the family bonds that haven’t existed and all have missed.

Again, Weiner’s ability to capture her characters emotions and translate them to paper enchants me. There’s a lot of psychological messes that the characters struggle through so they can begin their lives again. This was an easy book to like and to read. I feel like I really know the characters when I finished. To me, thats a great way to end a book.

Read October 2014.

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein went through multiple editions and changes, and the version I read is mostly based on the third edition from 1831 and some text from 1818. I learned that this story originated when Mary Shelley was holed up in a vacation home and the group decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story. Shelley was inspired to begin the Frankenstein story on that vacation and work at it through her life.

The novel itself was difficult for me to start due to the slow beginning and archaic language, but once we meet Frankenstein the story is fascinating. Shelley skips a lot of the details on how he created the monster just as Frankenstein skips over his responsibility in the creation. The monster, while feared at first, becomes an intelligent being who just wants what most of us want in life: companionship, love, family. The problem being that he’s a hideous creature from whom everyone runs. He wants to be good. He tries to be good. But the nature of man to fear him, changes him and turns him into the monster that everyone already thinks he is.

Its a very interesting story about how science brings man too close to being God-like, and man cannot handle the responsibility of creating life. Frankenstein immediately runs from his creation, beginning the downward spiral of his life. Shelley allows the reader to feel empathy and compassion to the monster, which Frankenstein cannot, by telling his story of what happened once abandoned by his creator.

This novel has survived for so long due to its originality and also because Shelley is questioning man’s role in the world. Should man strive to be God-life, or should he remain ignorant to protect himself. Its an interesting story told during a time of great scientific and medical breakthroughs, but its still relevant today in the discussion of GMOs. When should man stop interfering with the natural order.

Although difficult to read, I chose to read this since its one of the first horror novels written by a woman. This novel may have been heavily helped by her poet husband, Percy Shelley, but the idea and originality came from Mary Shelley. This book took me much longer to read than most others, but it was worth it.

Read October 2014

One Kick

Chelsea Cain’s newest character is not for the faint of heart. She introduces us to Kick Lannigan in One Kick and it is a memorable meeting.

Kick has not had a normal life. She was kidnapped at a young age to be transformed into a child porn starring in her own series of films where she is known by her alter ego Beth. It took a lot of isolation and torture to transform a regular 6 year old into a pedophile’s dream. Now 21, Kick is still dealing with issues from her abuse and dedicates herself to never being powerless again. She is strong and armed, no matter where she goes.

She is recruited by Bishop, who is looking into the recent disappearance of 2 children. Bishop, who has his own messed up childhood, is focused on finding the missing children in a separate investigation from the FBI. He has resources and methods that far exceed the government’s ability and he wants Kick’s memories and instincts to help located the children.

Cain writes of brutalities against children and this might turn off many readers. This is not an easy book to read, especially since so many details of her fiction are reality for some children. It breaks my heart to think that there are children in the world who have experienced Kick’s childhood and many who are never returned home. By having Kick as the main character, Cain explores the psychological response that a child might have to regular life. All the while engaging Kick in an investigation that threatens her life but might help save a child like her.

This is a hard, but great read. Cain is a great horror writer.

Read October 2014

Broken Monsters

I read Broken Monsters after reading an article where Stephen King, the kind of horror, recommended it. I was not disappointed.

What a story! Lauren Beukes has a handful of main characters that tell the story of a man succumbing to madness. But no matter who the narrator was, the city held the main stage. The decrepitness of the city, the population fleeing, the artists trying to dress up the crumbling houses, the homeless surviving on what’s left behind by those leaving, the children growing up while the landscape dies. All the characters are essential to this story but it wouldn’t be the same in another city. All the characters are witness to the descent of the city and the madman that is slowly terrorizing it, but they all have their own story to tell as well including single parenthood, failed aspirations, bullying, creating art, friendships, and priorities in life. Life must go on even when it seems like the city is over.

As we learn about how those living in a shrinking city are surviving and sometimes flourishing, we also get glimpses into madness. The madness should almost be its own character since it doesn’t seem to be a man, but something that controls man outside of himself.

This book is dark with an evilness that most novels stay away from. It is so well done and creepy with a ending that holds up and transforms the story. Great read!

Read September 2014.

A Hundred Summers

In A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams tells the tale about two friends who spent their childhood summering off the coast of Rhode Island, whose lives took a turn seven years ago. The story mainly focuses on the friendship and love life of the main characters Lily Dane and Budgie Byrne.

We’re introduced to these characters at the start of the summer of 1938, but through flashbacks and conversations we learn about their young college lives and ultimately how their friendship ended. Underlying everything, are secrets that have ruined the lives of many around them. The secrets that were left to fester for 7 years, while Lily is trying to hold her life together and ignore the blatant anti-semetitism of the old aristocracy of Seaview.

Williams’s gives the reader a glimpse of upperclass culture of the 1930’s while hitting upon antisemitism, classism, feminism and the strongest hurricane to hit the region until Hurricane Sandy.

This story is wonderfully told with so many twists and turns. The perception of reality is usually so wrong and it isn’t until the truth comes out that the storm can be calmed. Williams writes her characters so well with such social propriety, but there is so much warmth between many of the characters that stand by Lily. Great read!

Read September 2014

Then Came You

Jennifer Weiner’s Then Came You intertwines several women’s story’s of motherhood and fertility. Jules is a young Princeton student coming to terms with her sexuality and selling her eggs for a lot of money since she’s highly educated and beautiful. Annie is a stay at home mom of 2 young boys with a jealous husband. India is a little too old to be a trophy wife, but she lies about her age and just about everything else to tempt Marcus Croft, a very wealthy divorcee with older children. Bettina Croft, who never recovered from her mother leaving her father for her new guru, doesn’t trust the beautiful and secretive India.

Weiner has all the woman using their femaleness to get a leg up. From Annie who just wants a better life for family against her husbands wishes to Jules who will sell her eggs to have a better start to her new life. But everything comes with a cost that none of the woman anticipated.

I love how Weiner takes each woman’s strength and weakness and creates a group of women that can lean on each other. This is a quick, enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone who wants more insight into how woman think of their bodies as a commodity and how the world uses them. In this story the women end up stronger for it, no one is perfect, but together they create a family, very nontraditional, but full of love.

Read September 2014

The Light Between Oceans

M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans tells what can happen when decisions that are made in isolation are brought into the light of society. Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after years of fighting abroad and becomes the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island. The island is far off the coast and Tom is only visited every 3 months by Ralph and Bluey to deliver any mail and provisions. While in this isolated, although beautiful, environment, Tom begins a romance with a young woman he had met when he first arrived to takeover the lighthouse, Isabel.

Their written romance soon becomes physical and Isabel marries Tom and moves to Janus Rock. There she unfortunately has 2 horrifying miscarriages. Shortly after a miscarriage a boat washes up on shore with a dead man and a crying baby. Isabel quickly sees this as a gift from God and keeps the baby as her own. From this moment, both Tom and Isabel have to sacrifice part of their rationality and ethics to maintain the facade that they build. While I never question the love they have for their “daughter”, I have a hard time with the blame and rationalization that happens.

This was a divisive book for my book club, with several woman understanding how the pain and isolation that Isabel went through made her behavior understandable. While others, myself included, could not understand how Isabel could keep up her mothering while hearing about the heartache it caused. Many of the characters in the story also encountered the same dilemma. Maybe that should have made this an interesting read, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the book while I was in the middle of it. Isabel’s behavior bothered me too much and I couldn’t believe that anyone would allow this story to happen.

Read September 2014