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Showing posts from September, 2013

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This book is set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in 1988, give or take a few years. The protagonist is Joe Coutts, a thirteen year old member of the Ojibwe tribe and whose mother is brutally beaten and raped in the tribe's Round House. The Round House is a place of prominence in the tribe's culture as that is where a number of religious ceremonies are held, including the Sweat Lodges. His father, Bazil, is a lawyer and the town's tribal judge, making the violation that occurred even that much more horrific. Because Joe's mother is extremely unclear as to what happened and where due to her injuries and her seeming unwillingness (who can really blame her) to remember what happened to her, it's hard to figure out who committed the offense and in what jurisdiction each event happened. This is significant because it could be a federal offense, a state offense or a tribal offense, with the ramifications of each being extremely different (for instance, on Indian …

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

We learn pretty much at the beginning of this utterly engrossing book that Will Schwalbe's mother had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Yes, thats the terminal kind that has metastasized to many other organs of a person's body. While this may have been devastating to most people (and was to Will, his siblings and the rest of his family), his indomitable mother continues to live a *really* active life. She juggles her treatments with her other obligations and her pleasures, most notably her voracious appetite for reading. During her treatments, Will (also a tremendous reader in a family of readers) will read the same books that his mother does and discuss them with her in great depth.I'm normally very hesitant about books about books - they can go so horribly wrong so quickly; however this one was really good in part because it's not a Cliffs note version of books, and because it's also a memoir of his mother's struggle with cancer and because he's such a good wri…

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

This book is a memoir written by Piper Kerman, a WASP-y, upper middle class, Smith college graduate that has to spend 15 months in a minimum security prison in Connecticut after she pleads guilty to federal drug charges. It is the basis - loosely - of the Netflix series of the same name. If you haven't seen the series, please take a time out immediately, go over to Netflix and add it to your streaming queue because it is to die for - it's one of my guilty pleasures.I really liked the memoir (which is different in many ways from the series - which can take many fictional liberties whereas the memoir can't). Kerman tries to provide a glimpse of what life is like on the inside of the prison, albeit in a way that is similar to what went on in Eat, Pray, Love. I really liked seeing the day to day life of a post-adjudged convict in the criminal justice system and the struggles that these women faced and that were inherent in the return to society. I really wished that I had got…

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

How good this novel is can be demonstrated by its opening line: ""My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost 40 years ago [the early 1970's] I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. I didn't return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing." Yes, it's a "spy novel" in some sense; however only very loosely so. Too much said about the plot will ruin the effect for the reader though. I can say that the book is full of irony and simply wonderful. Serena is one of the best characters that I've ever met in literature. She is so complex. As we meet her, we learn that she has gone to college at Cambridge (not too shabby) where she studied math after being forced to do so by her ambitious mother (instead of English and literature, which were Serena's passions and still are when we meet her - she litera…