Friday, March 26, 2010

XX. THE GINGER MAN - J.P. Donleavy

I was fascinated in this book and its recommendation because The Ginger Man was banned from the United States in the 1950s. My greatest dream is to write a banned book; of course, I had to read this.

However, after twenty pages, it was rather easy to figure out why it was banned. After forty pages, I lost interest in the story, though I would like to revisit it in the future... especially if enough people tell me I *must*.

13. WENCH - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

My father-in-law has a saying; when asked how he is doing, he replies, "I'm white, I'm male, I was born in the United States at the ideal time, and I am educated."

The women of Wench would answer a bit differently. As the mistresses of southern slave owners, they are brought to an Ohio resort during the mid 1850s that caters to men who can "love" them more openly. Under the ruse of a personal slave who washes, cooks, cleans, sweeps, and cares for the man, each woman has a different personal relationship with her master. While some, like Sweet, have borne several children and feel love for her man, others, like Mawu, despises her master and begins the talk that changes their lives.

Ohio was free territory, but until Mawu began talking of being a "free black," like the hotel's servants, none of the others considered other options for their lives or their children's lives. Their choices would eventually reunite them or divide them forever from their families.

The most powerful part of the novel was the characterization in its short 300 pages. Four women with different beliefs and relationships psychologically stand together with the strength of Stonehenge. A shift of the hip or a glance tells much more than an entire page.

Like The Help, this is a peek at a world I would never know or understand. How are you doing today, Kristin? I am white, I'm a strong woman, I was born in the United States at the ideal time, and I am educated. I am a lucky, lucky woman.

4.25 out of 5.0 Code Limons.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

12. DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE - Isabel Allende

I think I found a new favorite author. And, dear readers, if you recommended this book, step forth into my circle of adoration.

Beginning in Chile, a newborn baby is found at the back door of a moderately wealthy family. Rose insists on adopting the child into the family, and Eliza Sommers life begins. As a child, she is split between the "how to be a lady" lessons from Rose and the cooking and healing recipes of her nana, a native Chilean Indian.

As she grows up, she falls in love with Joaquin. Rose disapproves of the match, but Eliza is so secretive and sneaky that she is never caught with the young man. However, the gold fever of 1848-49 California reaches the coast of Chile, and Joaquin catches the illness along with half of the world. Of course, Eliza follows him, and I will not summarize any more details because you must enjoy this epic work yourselves.

Allende has such an enormous grasp of historical events, places, and people, and she blends them seamlessly into her narrative. A character in one chapter will have significance in a much later chapter, a small image will have tremendous meaning. This is the type of writing that I can embrace.

Small quibble - it's an Oprah book, and y'all know how I feel about that. However, if any of her other books are half as good as this one, I will read them. Suggestions?

4.75 out of 5.0 Picante Lemons.

Monday, March 01, 2010

11. THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS - John Connolly

David's mother is dying, but he counts the numbers of steps and ritualizes his mornings in an attempt to keep her alive. After her death, and his father's subsequent remarriage, he finds new rituals: books. Especially, listening to the books who talk to him.

This fantasy-filled novel, set in World War II Britain, promises to prompt memories of Grimm fairy tales and ideas of "truth" versus "story." I found that I liked this book much more after I finished it and could begin the rehashing of its meaning.

David finds a hole in the garden, and he hears his mother's voice calling for help. One night, he sees a German plane falling from the sky, and to escape from a fiery death, he crawls through the hole into a fairytale woods. From there, the story follows familiar and strange tales, the stories that we do not tell children, but we probably should. Death comes to those who make idiotic choices, for example, or are not honorable in their actions.

In order to return to the "real world," David must find the king and his "Book of Lost Things." However, is his awakening due to finding a way home, or had this been his imagination all along?

The author threw in enough irony and twists on typical children's fare to keep my attention. More thrilling is the discussions post-reading. Does this other-world exist? As the author states, he has received a unique answer from everyone he has met. A book to make one think - I'll put down my drink for this.

4.0 out of 5.0 Red Witches.