Tag Archives: Relationships

Review: Model Home

Model Home

Model Home
By Eric Puchner
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780743270496, September 2010, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

Puchner creates one of the most heartbreaking stories of our time. Sad and beautiful, its message resonates.

The Rest of It:

Dreaming of untold riches in the real estate market, Warren Ziller moves his family to a gated community in (Rancho) Palos Verdes, California.  There, they live the American dream. Nice house, nice neighborhood. But Warren has a secret. The real estate development that he’s invested in has tanked, and his family has no idea what looms ahead.

Once in a while a book comes up out of nowhere and just slaps you in the face. I first heard about Model Home when it was featured in this year’s Tournament of Books. Simply put, it sounded like my kind of book. It was set in Southern California, it had all the family dynamics that I seem to crave, and dysfunction… lots of it. I expected to enjoy it, but I did not expect to love it as much as I did.

This book will break your heart.

You will re-read passages over and over again because Puchner’s writing is so exquisite. His writing is both beautiful and raw, which doesn’t even sound right when put together in one sentence.

You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, people liked to say. In truth. there was not much time, a blip, and most of what you did was a mistake. You were lucky to find a safe and proper home. In the end, even the world cast you out, withdrawing its welcome.

The characters are so well-developed, that I cried for them. Their predicament is so dire at one point, so delicate and precarious that I had to pace my reading or be overwhelmed by grief.

If you search for reviews on this book,  you’ll see that many found this book to be depressing. I didn’t. It’s an honest account of a family falling apart, but in many ways it’s hopeful too.

I want everyone to read this book. It’s my fave of the year (so far) and if you happen upon the interview with Eric Puchner, discussing the book, hold off on it until you’ve read it because it gives a huge plot point away!

Source: Purchased.

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Review: Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375714368, January 2010, 688pp.)

The Short of It:

Full of sorrow and pain, wonder and joy.

The Rest of It:

Such a heartfelt tale and so popular among readers. What’s left to say? Well, lots. In case you are not familiar with the plot, here is the blurb from the publisher:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

This really is a family saga. Maybe not your idea of a traditional family, for sure, but a family saga nonetheless. The birth of these boys affect so many…the loving couple that raise them, the extended “family” of servants, and everyone they come in contact with while at the hospital. Although the same in many ways, these boys are quite different. Shiva is more matter-of-fact and direct than his brother, Marion. Marion is a bit more complex, but perhaps that’s just perception on my end since the story is told from Marion’s point of view. Either way, the two boys make a whole, and that is addressed a few times in the novel as well as at the end of the story.

For me, much of it was fascinating. The surgical procedures, although drawn-out a tad too long, held my attention and made me see the characters in a different light. Hema and Ghosh, the two Indian doctors who raise the boys, were probably my favorite characters in the story.  They were sensible, yet very loving towards the boys and instilled in them a love of medicine. Their relationship with the boys was very touching and heartbreakingly real. I loved seeing them in this light.

However, I had some issues with Marion and Genet, his childhood friend. Without giving the story away, I will just say that I was disappointed with these characters. As genuine as Marion’s voice was throughout his tale, his voice faltered a bit towards the last quarter of the book. To me, he fell out of character and for that moment, I didn’t like him at all. Perhaps, Verghese’s decision to go there, had everything to do with making Marion a real, living breathing person, one with faults of his own. However, it didn’t work for me and it left me feeling frustrated with Marion and I’m sure that was not the author’s intent.

The issues that I had with Genet, had to do with motivation. I didn’t understand the motive behind her actions. Although she was a servant’s daughter, she was really raised in the same home as Shiva and Marion. She had access to the same amenities that they did as far as education goes, yet she flounders continuously and can’t seem to make wise choices. As I approached that last part of the book, I was further confused by her actions. She was such an important piece of Marion’s life, yet she almost seemed like a throw-away character towards the end.

Overall, I was touched by the relationship between Hema, Ghosh and these orphaned boys. Touched enough to overlook the issues I mentioned. In an interview on NPR, it was noted that the book was heavily edited. Perhaps something was lost in those edits, that would have explained the deviation from character that I mentioned. Perhaps Genet’s motivation was more fleshed out. Regardless, the book is very thought-provoking. My book club had plenty to talk about and I am still thinking about the story.

Source: Purchased

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