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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Club

I don't sleep very well lately so I tend to stay up way too late reading.  The good part in all of that is that I've had a chance to read a few of the books that have been waiting on my shelf.

Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed begins simply enough, with a father recounting a folktale to his two young children. The tale is about a young boy who is taken by a div (a sort of ogre), and how that fate might not be as terrible as it first seems—a brilliant device that firmly sets the tone for the rest of this sweeping, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel. A day after he tells the tale of the div, the father gives away his own daughter to a wealthy man in Kabul. What follows is a series of stories within the story, told through multiple viewpoints, spanning more than half a century, and shifting across continents. The novel moves through war, separation, birth, death, deceit, and love, illustrating again and again how people’s actions, even the seemingly selfless ones, are shrouded in ambiguity. This is a masterwork by a master storyteller. —Chris Schluep

Kaled Hoseeini's other two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are two of my favorite books.  I love his form of storytelling and the way he focuses on and develops his characters.  All of his books have been set in Afghanistan, his birthplace, and feel so authentic.  Several of the reviews I have read didn't like the fact that there were multiple, interwoven narratives.  The book did almost feel like a collections of connected short stories.  What is surprising is that I don't generally like short story collections but I loved this book.  I think the genius of his writing is the way he moved through various characters and stories but ultimately, each narrative enhanced the story of another. 

It's tough to describe the book in much more detail so I'll just share one of my favorite passages.  I realize it is completely out of context but I think it is beautiful:

"She wants him to stop.  She wants to tell him to shut up, that she cannot bear to hear it, but she's too late.  She hears the words childhood leukemia, or maybe he says lymphoma, and what's the difference anyway?  Pari sits on the edge of the bed, sits there like a stone, head throbbing, skin drenched in sweat.  She is furious with Eric for planting a thing as horrible as this in her mind in the middle of the night when she's seven hundred kilometers away and helpless.  She is furious with herself for her own stupidity.  Opening herself up like this, voluntarily, to a lifetime of worry and anguish.  it was madness.  Sheer lunacy.  A spectacularly foolish and baseless faith, against enormous odds, that a world you do not control will not take from you the one thing you cannot bear to lose.  Faith that the world will not destroy you.  I don't have the heart for this.  She actually says this under her breath.  I don't have the heart for this.  At that moment she cannot think of a more reckless, irrational thing than choosing to become a parent. " 

Definitely a solid A

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. (from Amazon)

This book has received quite a bit of press since it was released a few years ago.  I purposely haven't read very many reviews or opinions because I knew I wanted to read the book and I didn't want to be influenced by the opinions of others.  The funny thing is, after reading it, I'm still not sure of my own opinion of the book.  Nearly everything I have read uses terms like "magical" "fantastic", and "an adult fairy tale" to describe the story and it definitely had a vibe that is far from realism.  I think that is part of why I am ambivalent about the story.  I don't generally like fantasy and I wasn't really that impressed by that aspect of the story.  Sometimes I had a hard time figuring out what story the author was trying to tell.  The story itself was ok, the harder part for me was the characters.  I think the author deliberately kept them vague and distant to add to their mystique, but it made it difficult for me to relate or feel very invested in their stories.  I didn't really believe the big romance  and was pretty ambivalent about what happened to most of the characters.  Despite all of that, I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in a very short time.  See my poing, I'm still not sure what I think.....B+???

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