Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Little Book: Seldon Edwards

This book had surprises. It was about a man that time travels from present day to Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. The story starts out with the narrator telling us that they are telling us about their son's journey. The first question one wonders is why the son can't tell the story for himself. The second question was on why the deseased father is telling the story. It wasn't until page 99 that the narrator uses the word "she" and we realize the mother is giving us the story of her son, Wheeler. Wheeler mysteriously ends up in Vienna and meets not only his father, who is younger than himself and also apparently time travelled to the same place, and his grandfather, who was actually alive at that time, and younger than both his son and grandson. There is some mystery surrounding the grandfather that he killed a Jew in Europe. Wheeler's mother was Jewish. Later Wheeler starts seeing a woman he finds out was his grandmother after she broke it off. I especially liked that the Era where Freud was alive was chosen, because this book is filled with Freud fodder. His grandmother, who we learned wasn't really related, because his father was someone else, comes back and they dance the waltz together. We now know his grandmother knew who he was before she passed away. She insisted he dance the waltz with her and he remarked how beautiful she looked. Her parting words were that he must remember, above all else, she was happy with her life. The journel Wheeler wrote in while he was in Vienna was found by his father, what was amusing is that the speech his father presented at his graduation ceremony came from the book and became a sort of motto for the school, Wheeler wrote it in the book because he remembered it from school. This creates a situation where you aren't sure which came first.

The Surrendered: Chang-Rae Lee

This book was a masterpiece. It followed three lives throughout Asia and the United States. The three people meet during the Korean War, then separate, only for two of them to find each other again. The book starts with June a Korean girl who was travelling with her mother, older sister, and twin siblings after her brother and father were conscripted into the army. Her mother and sister are killed by a bomb right before their eyes. The three remaining children climb aboard a train and the twins are killed from a horrible accident. She meets an American soldier (Hector) who leads her to an orphanage he decides to work at after killing a Korean soldier, who we are lead to believe could have been June's brother. At the orphanage we meet Sylvie who is with her minister husband running the orphanage. Her parents were ministers and she watched them die during the Sino- Japanese war. Sylvie becomes a drug addict and even though they were eventually supposed to adopt children form the orphanage when they returned home, her husband realizes she is too sick to do so. Two of the children, Min and June, once they realize they aren't going home with Sylvie, and no one will want them, decide to die in a fire. The fire ends up killing Min and Sylvie and her husband. Hector ends up marrying June and brings her to the US, just so she can escape the orphanage. They copulate once and June has a son, which Hector does not find out about until June is dying and tracks him down because she wants them to have each other after she's gone. After tracking down the son June is too sick to realize "Nick" is not her son, but a con artist (her son had died). Hector gives him money to fulfill June's dying wish to see her son once more. The Story ends with June, the last of her family, dying.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Disgrace: J.M.Coetzee

This was such a potent book, it starts off distasteful enough, but then that last line in the book had me sobbing. The story centers on a professor, David, who develops a passion for one of his students. It is difficult to determine what happened, if he lured her in or if she too was interested in the older man. The affair ends spectacularly when the girl's boyfriend attacks David's property. Then her parents find out and David loses his job. For a break he decides to visit his daughter and write a book on his favorite author- Byron. Within the week he spends with his daughter they are attacked. Three natives, two men and a boy try to catch him on fire, rape David's daughter, steal everything valuable and after shooting their six dogs they steal the car. David is furious, but the daughter, Lucy, doesn't want anyone to know she was raped. David is certain the hired hand, who is also native, ordered the attack and was conveniently gone the day it happened. Later David and Lucy attend a party Petrus has to celebrate Lucy giving him some land and the boy attacker is there. He is part of Petrus' family and David then knows it was an elaborate plan to get Lucy to leave so he could have the land. David goes back home and realizes there is nothing there for him, his house was also broken into and all valuables taken, even the food, while he was gone. He calls Lucy to see how she is doing and she doesn't sound right so he goes back and finds she is pregnant from one of the attackers. David asks why she didn't get an abortion and she states that she can't go through that again. He finds out she had already had an abortion once before and he realizes he doesn't know his daughter at all. He is frustrated by how naive and trusting she is to these people she lives near and how they are taking advantage of her. David goes back to Petrus and asks what happens now that she is carrying a child that is his relation. Petrus says he will "marry" her, he already has two wives. He acts unfazed by David's anger. David tells Lucy what Petrus said, still indignant, but Lucy said she would take him up on the offer. She would give him her land as long as she could keep the house in return for her protection from the rapists. Later he finds the boy peeping through the window at Lucy and smacks him around, but Lucy comes to his rescue. The last scene is of David at the shelter where he volunteers; he had become friends with a maimed dog and admitted he hadn't felt such kinship with an animal before. Then he puts him down- the woman he works with says " I thought you would save him for another week, are you giving him up? He replies “yes, I am giving him up". That line speaks volumes, it is as though he has finally given up on his daughter whom he doesn't understand or agree with her decisions- she seems to be so persistent in doing the opposite of what her father wants to prove it is her life, that she has destroyed everything she loved. He also seems to be saying he is giving up, giving up on the Bryon book, giving up on life since he was spending money he didn't have and wasn't worried about the bills catching up.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Breaking Night: Liz Murray

This was an amazing book about a girl born to drug addicted parents and how she turned her life into something inspirational. Liz talks about her childhood growing up hungry, dirty, and basically neglected. She stops going to school at a young age because her mother lets her stay home from school and watch her get high. She rarely attends middle school because she is a social outcast after her lice incident. She didn't attend high school at all. Her mother finds a new boyfriend and moves her older sister in with them, Liz stays with her father- still using drugs, until child welfare take her away. Eventually she is released into her mother's care, whom is dying of AIDS. She eventually runs away from home and becomes homeless; crashing at friends’ houses once their parents leave. For a short time she lives in a hotel room with a boyfriend that deals drugs. He eventually gets addicted and Liz runs away and is back to looking for a place to sleep every night. She meets a girl who was also homeless and has gotten her life in order and is inspired to go back to school. She finds out she actually enjoys school and decides to try to get into college. To her surprise she wins a scholarship from Times Magazine and gets into Harvard. She finds out her father has AIDS, which her mother died from when she was homeless and not in school, and spends time taking care of him. She went on to start her own company helping others and is a motivational speaker. This book really made me think about all I took for granted growing up and how much I still take for granted.