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Showing posts from August, 2010

Lit by Mary Karr

I loved reading Mary Karr's other memoirs so I was excited when this one came out. Unfortunately, it took me until now to get to it.

Lit, Karr's latest memoir, details her struggles with alcohol, her road to sobriety and her converstion to Catholicism. The focus is on her early years as a writer and young parent and how alcohol impacted those things as well as contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Timeline wise, this book takes place 9 years after the events discussed in Cherry, Karr's coming of age memoir. The story begins with Karr as a teenager and then as a college student, then as a poet and grad student and finally her family life.

I loved this memoir.  There were some parts of it that really struck home for me as a young parent - especially when Karr details the impact of her drinking on her son in particular.  It was poignant and touching and emotional and raw, but eloquent and wonderful at the same time.  She's also really meticulous and frank in h…

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

This novel by Tatjana Soli is about a female photojournalist that covers the Vietnam War from 1969 until a little bit beyond its close in 1972. Helen finds that the violence that she photographs changes her life in numerable ways and that she can't just leave the country, no matter how many times she nearly dies in the process. It's an addiction, akin to that possibly felt by extreme sports fanatics. Helen arrives there in Vietnam obsessed with learning about her brother, who died in the war. She is young and naive and inexperienced. She quickly becomes hooked to Sam Darrow, another photographer, who becomes her mentor and lover. He's already a ton of time doing what Helen will spend the next decade of her life doing. He can't return home, even though he constantly promises that he would do so. And Linh is, perhaps, the most complicated of all - he is Vietnamese with ties to both the NVA and SVA and the underground, black market.

The title is a reference to the Greek…

The Good Son by Michael Gruber

This is one of the books that I heard about on NPR and decided to read, and was wildly glad that I did.

The Good Son was written by Michael Gruber, a man that had a lot of careers before becoming a novelist, including chef and journalist. I'm convinced that his background as a journalist helped him in composing this novel about the intersection of the Muslim world of Pakistan/Afghanistand and the West.

The protagonist, Sonya Davis, is a white, American woman that practices both Islam and Catholicism and married a wealthy Pakistani. After working briefly in a circus, she and her husband, Farid Laghari, moved to Lahore where they had three children - one of whom (Theo) we get to know intimately in this novel. Theo is raised in Lahore. At ten, a family tragedy inspires Theo and his best friend (and adopted brother) Wazir to run off to join the jihad against the Russians (it is, after all, the late eighties when the Russians were in Afghanistan). At 13, Theo becomes a legendary jihadis…

The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman

I heard about this book on one of the podcasts that I listen to - the Manic Mommies interviewed Hope Edelman on one of the podcasts that I listened to (I'm really behind) and the book sounded really interesting. And it was really interesting.

This memoir takes place in 2000. Hope is living with her three year old daughter (Maya) and her husband, Uzi, in California. She's a writer and her husband works for a start up computer company.  Hope is going through a rough period - she's not happy with her writing, she feels like she gives up a lot of time with her daughter and Uzi has been working long hours at the start-up so her relationship with him is suffering. She resents him for not being around for her or for Maya.  So the family plans a trip to Belize. As the trip approaches, Maya begins to act strangely. She begins to act out by becoming violent towards her parents, playing alone and blaming everything on her new imaginary friend, Dodo.  All the doctors and social workers…

Fun With Problems by Robert Stone

This is a short collection of seven stories written by Robert Stone. I heard about this collection on NPR I think, but I had never heard of the author before.

The main characters in each of Stone's stories seem to deal with the same issues - dissatisfaction with their life in some way, shape or form that they deal with by consuming massive amounts of alcohol. Some consume so much alcohol that they are literally and figuratively drowning in it (there are at least two drownings/near drownings in this collection). 

When I first started reading, I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to get through the entire collection.  While some of the stories drew me in immediately, some of them did not. I lost interest in some of the characters easily, perhaps because all of the main characters were male and their struggles were not like mine, not because they were male but simply because I didn't have their issues and couldn't relate to their issues. But I kept on and when I ask …

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is the 11th novel by Guy Gavriel Kay and I'm surprised that I haven't heard of this author or read anything by him before because this book was an absolute treat. It is set in 8th centruy China, during the Tang dynasty, but the country is only loosely based upon that time and place. The main character is Shen Tai, the second son of a reknowned general that has passed away. Shen's older brother, Liu, is the assistant to the prime minister of Kitan (as Chinas is known n this novel). The brothers have a younger sister that becomes a princess and part of the royal family.

Their father has recently died and part of Shen Tai's mourning was to go to a remote village, where a battle has recently occurred and where there are many unburied bodies.  Of course, ghosts roam the area as well, at least until their bodies are buried. Shen Tai buries the bodies of the dead soldiers that he comes across. As a result of his work, he is given a gift of 250 horses; horses from the nie…

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

I think that this is the second or third book in a month that waxes eloquently on marriage - specifically bad ones.  I hope that it doesn't say anything about my unconsciousness or whatever (it doesn't, but seriously, why are all the books that I have been picking up about dysfunctional relationships in some way shape or form?).

This novel begins with a diary entry written by Irene America - she actually keeps two diaries. One of the diaries is for herself and she keeps it in a lockbox at her local bank - a lockbox that only she has access to. The other she keeps in her desk drawer in her home and she writes in it what she wants her husband to see. Both Irene and her husband, Gil, are of Native American descent and both are raised by single mothers, but the novel doesn't delve into typical Native American Indian themes.  Its focus is more on relationships. Gil, a painter, paints portraits of Irene and uses them as weapons and, sometimes therapy, in much the same way that…