Review: Canada

Canada
Canada 
By Richard Ford
(Ecco, Paperback, 9780061692031, January 2013, 432pp.)

The Short of It:

The anatomy of a crime, as told by one of the characters most affected by it.

The Rest of It:

First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first. (First lines of Canada)

Those opening lines set the stage for Dell’s story. His parents, struggling to make a life for themselves in Great Falls, Montana, rob a bank after getting involved in an illegal business deal. Their hope, is to pay off their debt and begin again. What Bev Parsons does not know, is that his wife Neeva sees this criminal act as a way to escape a lifetime with the man she married. Dell and his sister Berner are left to a family friend who has plans to get them out of the country. But as twins, and only fifteen, they are not sure what to make of the things happening around them.

What a book. I’ve never read Richard Ford before but when my book club picked it for January I had to give it a try. It’s not a book a reader can love. The story is too bleak for that, but I did appreciate the languid writing. Some of the members in the group compared Ford to Richard Russo and I agree. His writing reminded me a lot of Russo.

Many of the details shared are “day in the life” type details but at the same time, Ford uses foreshadowing to string the reader along. It works. I read these 400+ pages in two sittings. Telling the story from Dell’s sheltered perspective is somewhat limiting at times, but his wide-eyed wonder at the things going on around him made him vulnerable which lent the story a fragile, precarious quality.

What I most enjoyed, is the discussion that took place afterward. It’s hard to imagine what drives people to do the things they do, but it was fun to discuss it. Dell’s parents were never normal, in the traditional sense of the word. They kept their kids sheltered, were not successful in any way and tried to remain under the radar. Living in that small town, they managed to avoid most of their neighbors and didn’t seem to know how to interact with the people around them, or each other. This should have helped them in the end, but it’s really what did them in.

Ford can tell a tale and his sense of place is strong here. I enjoyed his style of writing so much, that I will be sure to seek out his other books. Have you read any of his books?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart
By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage Books, Paperback, 9780099448471, 2006, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

In true Murakami fashion, all of the elements are here. A love triangle, a mysterious protagonist known only as K, a beautiful setting and buckets of ennui.

The Rest of It:

It’s no secret how much I love Murakami but this book seemed the most balanced to me. The characters are strange and deep, in the way they usually are but not overly so and the conflict presented, happens to be something any reader can relate to.

Sumire, is this deep, untouchable writer-type who has the talent to write, but can’t seem to effectively gather her thoughts into anything more than just a few words on a page. She’s frustrated and shares her angst with her male friend, known only as K. He sees her potential but at the same time is blinded by his passion for her. Sumire is not interested in K as a lover. Instead, she meets an older woman by the name of Miu, and falls in love with her. Miu shares a very special friendship with Sumire, but does not want to be her lover. This rejection, throws Sumire into a deep well of despair and when Sumire goes missing while vacationing with Miu in Greece, Miu calls K to help find her.

So. Much. Angst. Oh, how I love angst!

These characters are torn between love and passion. They love each other and have passion for one another but the feeling is not mutual. As hard as this is for K, his concern over Sumire outweighs his frustration over the situation. He drops everything to find Sumire and in the process, realizes that some alternate universe exists and that the world as he knows it, will never be the same.

The beauty of this book is the writing itself. It’s delicate. Like taking tiny, measured tastes of a delicious pastry. So many people ask me which Murakami to read first. I am always torn because it really depends on your mood at the time, your tolerance for ennui and angst, etc. But this one would be great for anyone wanting to give Murakami a try. His books can be sexually explicit, but this was tame in comparison and the tone, mild.

Out of all of his books, this is one of my faves. I read this with a couple of other readers for #readingsputnik and it was just what I needed to jolt me out of the reading rut I was in.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Interestings

The Interestings

The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594488399, April 2013, 480pp.)

The Short of It:

Good friends and a healthy dose of nostalgia. So many of life’s ills can be cured with that combination.

The Rest of It:

Goodness, what is there to say? I read this so long ago. Long before my blogging break and yet, it still remains in my heart in some small way. It’s about a group of kids who meet at an art’s camp over the summer. They name themselves “The Interestings” because they all have the hope of becoming something unique once they hit their adult years. Some have money and talent and others, not so much, but what they have in common is a sincere understanding of one another. Wolitzer follows them into adulthood and the end result is a fascinating look at relationships and how they weather the test of time.

I adored this book. Simply adored it. I listened to part of it on audio and it was fantastic but I also read some of it in print and it was wonderful as well. The story is told by Jules Jacobson as she meets and befriends this group of kids. She’s got the right amount of confidence and awkwardness. Just enough to make her likable and her ability to take in a situation and react accordingly is admirable. She’s level-headed, bright, but not perfect. In fact, none of these kids are perfect. Their outer shells sometimes make them appear that way, but inside, they are all vulnerable which is what makes this group of kids especially readable.

But don’t think that this is a young adult novel, because it’s not. They enter adulthood rather quickly and as with most things, their shine dulls a bit until they find steady ground. The aftermath of a rape, is what propels them quickly into adulthood and the way that they handle the event and the loyalty to one particular character is what eventually divides them. But their journey is somehow interesting even though much of it is somewhat mundane. College, career, marriage, children. The rut of adulthood is also the impetus to propel them forward.

Some readers have said that they found the book to go on a little too long. It’s chunky and goes along at a steady pace, but I didn’t find it to be long at all. In fact, I found myself not wanting it to end. I had grown close to these characters and through the course of reading the book, I felt as if I knew them and that they could easily be people I know now. There was a familiarity that was comforting. You know that movie The Big Chill? It was sort of like watching that movie. A circle of friends, made tighter by tragedy. The easy interactions, the “what if” questions, the effect that passing years has on a person or marriage. Everyone has that one friend that they think of no matter how many years go by, and so I think many readers can relate to what happens in this story.

Reading this book is like visiting with old friends and I loved it for that reason. I loved it for all the memories that it brought back to me from my own teen years and the fact that it was well written certainly didn’t hurt.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Night Film

Night Film

Night Film
By Marisha Pessl
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067886, August 20, 2013. 624pp.)

The Short of It:

A completely absorbing literary thriller that’s both smart and alluring.

The Rest of It:

Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building on a cold October night. Her death is ruled a suicide but investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks otherwise. As the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, known for his horror films and his reclusive nature, Ashley’s mysterious death sparks the interest of many, including all of the fans who call themselves Cordovites. As Scott assembles a team to assist him in the investigation, his love of Cordova’s work and his obsession over the director himself, puts him front and center. Danger lurks everywhere and as they dig deeper into a life that has basically been in hiding for more than twenty years, the answers they find surprise them.

This novel will most likely be my favorite book of the year. I felt it within the first fifty pages and after 600+ pages, the feeling stuck This is the type of novel that makes reading an experience. I can’t deny  it, I totally ignored my family while reading this one. The kids and Hub were left to forage for food, laundry piled up and the Otter Pup tried to sit on my head to get my attention. It’s hard to say if everyone will have this same reaction. I’ve seen a few reviews and some were less enthused by it, but there was much to love.

I’ll point out just a few of the things that made this a five-star read for me:

  • Top-notch writing
  • Engaging, likable characters
  • The puzzle aspect of the story
  • It’s all dark and drizzly and the cult-horror thing worked for me
  • The inclusion of web pages, articles and the like to move the story along
  • The fact that the films within the story were all made-up yet seemed fully fleshed out
  • The back story of all the key players
  • Pessl’s ability to toss red herrings in over and over again and somehow not lose the reader along the way
  • Reading it felt absolutely forbidden which made it all the more appealing

In the midst of all this darkness, there is humor. McGrath’s self-deprecating nature made for some humorous moments and his love of the genre shines through, which makes his quest to find the truth even more plausible. it could have been edited down a bit but I didn’t mind since I ended up stretching it out for as long as I could anyway. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. As soon as I finished, I immediately had to talk about it with others who read it and that conversation even included possible casting choices for the movie, because I know it will be made into a film. Actually, I did see a listing for it on IMDb but I am not seeing it as of this writing.

That said, this entire review is based on how it made me feel while reading it. it sent shivers up my spine and there were times where I gasped out loud. It’s the type of book that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. I will say this, the inclusion of photos and news articles makes this book one that you want to read in print. Turning the page and seeing an obituary is quite startling. I don’t think you’d have the same reaction if someone just read it to you (audio) and I am not sure how those pages would translate in e-book form.

If you pick it up, let me know. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife
By A.S.A. Harrison
Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143123231, June 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Two people. One marriage. Deception at its finest.

The Rest of It:

Jodi and Todd Gilbert have it all. She’s a successful therapist who’s successful enough to pick and choose who she treats on a day-to-day basis. He’s a real estate developer who knows how to turn a run-down building into profit. Together, they live in their swank, well-appointed Chicago condo and their lives are very comfortable. After a long day at the office, Todd comes home to a plate of artfully arranged canapés made by Jodi herself and Todd mixes the cocktails for them both to enjoy while looking out at the sweeping views of the city before them.

All is not golden. After twenty years together, the excitement of being with one another has dimmed to a flicker yet they’re both willing to push this aside since there is still so much to gain from such a relationship. Jodi seems to know her place as the beautiful, dutiful wife and Todd’s need to “be a guy” is not dampened in the slightest by Jodi because she “gets” him. She understands him like no other woman can and as long as he continues to keep her happy with the thoughtful gifts that he picks up for her every now and then, she seems content and that’s all Todd wants, is for her to be happy and content.

Oddly enough, Jodi feels the same way and overlooks Todd’s numerous indiscretions. He works hard, Plays hard and can’t be expected to toe the line every single moment, can he? But when one of his indiscretions turns into something more serious, Jodi begins to assert herself in a way that Todd is not accustomed to. But even this is so deceptively subtle, that it goes right over Todd’s head. Somehow, he’s convinced himself that he can have both. That he can be the happy husband with Jodi at home whenever he needs her, and that he can have Natasha, the daughter of his best friend whenever he feels the need for change.

This book is deceptively simple as far as plot goes but what makes the story so compelling is how the author handles the characters. These are sophisticated types and the way they handle themselves is not how you or I (or any normal person) would behave in a situation like theirs. They are even-tempered, cool even… and rarely break a sweat. At one point, I felt that Jodi was a cold, calculated woman but I liked her for being that way. I liked her for the way she put distance between herself and the situation. Something would happen and she’d take it all in stride with only a small tell that anything was amiss. I found both Jodi and Todd to be fascinating characters.

The story is told in alternating chapters titled “Her” and “Him” so you get both sides of the story and what each chracter is feeling at any given point. This back and forth format delivers, innocently, their motivations behind their actions but then later you realize that what seemed so innocent early on was really a pre-cursor to the total and utter destruction that follows.

This book is marketed as a thriller and I can see why. The level of suspense builds to a point where you just have no idea how the story will end and although you get to know the characters and their feelings quite intimately, you can’t predict what they’ll do. There are small implosions that occur throughout the book. Little upsets telling you that things are not looking good and I loved every one of them. This book will have you questioning right and wrong right up to the very last page. I am still thinking about the book. Plus, it’s so well-written and tastefully done. I really loved it.

Sadly, A.S.A. Harrison recently passed away so she isn’t around to receive the praise that this book will most surely garner but I am still screaming from the rooftops singing its praises. You have to read it! I loved everything about and I don’t say that too often.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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