Short reviews and book suggestions
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Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman
Eden, a wounded veteran, is transported home after serious injuries in Iraq. He is now in a hospital burn unit with his wife Mary by his side. A narrator shows us that Eden is very much alive in his mind and plays back experiences from his life before his injuries. We also learn the narrator has an important role in the relationship between Mary and Eden. I read this book cover to cover in one sitting and thought it through for days! Ackerman turns everything we think we know about this story– (the wife’s loyalty to the wounded soldier) –completely on its head. What does loyalty and bravery really mean? Who makes the choice about when it is time to give up? Why does the author use the names Eden, Mary, and others? I connected the cockroach image in the book to the beetle in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis—I’d be curious if you agree.
Elliot Ackerman served in the Marines and did five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is his second book to land on the National Book Award Longlist.
Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson
Sequoyah narrates the story of his time in a foster home during his youth. The home is welcoming and safe and he forms a bond with Rosemary, who is 17 and also Indian. But something is not quite right and Sequoya struggles to understand his foster family and what is really going on with Rosemary. Rosemary awakens deep questions in him about his own identity and perhaps gender. Hobson zeroes in on the nuanced, unspoken, and often confusing emotions and actions we all experience as teen-agers. He doesn’t close our eyes to the unanswered questions, the lack of alibi, and gives no apologies. It helped me understand a little more. I highly recommend this book and suggest you follow up by reading There There by Tommy Orange.
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Have you been reading a lot of heavy books? This one’s fun and loaded with dark humor. Frances and her son Malcolm are part of the wealthy elite in Manhattan. But that is all about to change and soon they find themselves with little left of their immense fortune. Frances, a wry, sharp, but intensely alive character, accepts a friend’s apartment in Paris and makes her “French Exit.” What follows is a slow spiral towards the end, with cutting ruthless observations and a cast of very funny characters—including a cat. The book is hilarious. It’s a dark comedy done right.
Educated by Tara Westover
If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend you put it on top of your pile. It’s an amazing story. There are so many reviews of this book, I’m not going to go on about it too much. But I will say this, I found it fascinating because she is in the middle of healing and probably only at the beginning of her “story”. How we construct the history of our lives changes but she has put it down while it’s still fresh and bleeding. How amazingly brave. Book Club will discuss as library on October 26th at 11am.
Linda Kepner’s Review:
Running on Empty, by S. E. Durrant
This juvenile fiction book is one of the sweetest books I’ve read in ages. It takes place in England.
AJ, a middle-school student, is a runner. That’s his greatest joy. His parents have learning difficulties. It’s Grandad who really coordinates things – and then Grandad dies. Since Mum works as a cook and baker, she can come home, start up the canned heat, and fix dinner in a pan over an open flame, but there’s no electricity… so AJ sacrifices his happiness, and secretly sells his running shoes. AJ is a track-and-field contender, and now everyone is wondering why he’s not running. AJ gives a teacher evasive answers, so the teacher decides to come home with him and discuss things with his parents…
In its own little way, this book is a stereotype fighter. There are no exhausted or bitter caregivers in this book (there’s exhaustion, but it’s good exhaustion!). There’s plenty of family and community interaction; no one is an island. When another friend asks AJ to describe his late grandfather in one word, AJ must think about it, but replies, “Happy.”