Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I've seen The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold on the table of reader's favorites at Barnes and Noble for years now. But I was never compelled to read it. Why? Because of the cover. Yes, I admit I was judging this book by its cover. It looked like a chick book to me. The Lovely Bones, with a charm bracelet and a little house on the cover. I thought it was about some suburban woman who wanted to be skinny because she has lovely bones or something. Well, I was wrong. It's nothing like that.

I finally decided to read it because Scott has been recommending it to me for about a year now. I was delighted to find it's a very thoughtful and moving story that centers around the murder of a 14 year-old girl namd Susie. It's told from Susie's point of view from her heaven. (Apparently everyone's is different.) She hovers above her family and friends and watches as they deal with her death and their grief and eventually come apart at the seams. Her sister, closest to her in age, still carrying the burden of sibling rivalry with a dead girl. Her father who becomes so obsessed with finding his daughter's killer he becomes known as something of a neighborhood loon. Her mother who becomes increasingly distant and cold to the rest of her family. The brother who was so young at the time of his sister's murder he was shielded from the reality of it and grows increasingly resentful with age for not being allowed to feel the loss. And finally, a once flighty and alcoholic grandmother who moves into the dead girl's room and attempts to pull the family back together.

The characters are very human and don't always behave as you would want them to or think they should. But therein lies the beauty of it. The painful humanity of the survivors who, like the dismembered bones of the murdered girl, separate, each in his own turmoil, but finally come together to form the body that was her life.

I found the device of using Susie to tell the story original and fascinating. I also applaud Sebold for not trying to turn the story into a suspense thriller with the characters in hot pursuit of a killer. It deals with the much stronger force to reckon with: their grief. That said, I found the pacing a bit plodding at times, but Sebold's beautiful prose is a pleasure to read.

So how about you? Read any good books lately?

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10 Comments:

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger Richard said...

I read a lot, so forgive the excess, but I highly recommend the following:

"The Road," by Cormac McCarthy. I know it's gained/lost some of its cachet because of Oprah's endorsement, but don't let that stop you. I found it a harrowing and exceptionally moving read. And the writing is exquisite.

"The Devil of Nanking," by Mo Hayder. Lurid and engrossing, about a British girl who comes to Tokyo to prove the existence of a film of some particularly grisly Japanese war crimes. But that description doesn't do the story, which alternates between the horrors of 1930s Nanking and the girl's present-day involvement with demons both external and internal, proper justice.

"The Places in Between," by Rory Stewart. Stewart takes a walk across post-war Afghanistan, following in the footsteps of a 15th-century emperor. It's a fascinating, if somewhat dense, look at a still not quite understood country.

"Faith at War," by Yaroslav Trofimov. Along similar lines, a journalist visits predominantly Muslim countries to get a bead on post-9/11 Islam.

"The Line of Beauty," by Alan Hollinghurst. A gloriously funny, sad, and beautifully written novel about class and gay culture in 1980s England.

"Clearcut," by Nina Shengold. An odd boy-girl-boy romantic triangle story taking place in the Pacific Northwest in the '70s, taken in unexpected directions by a very talented writer.

"The Return of the Player," by Michael Tolkin. Sequel to the story made famous by Robert Altman's film, it's never less than sharply amusing even in its slower patches. And those are well worth slogging through to get to the last five pages, which are an imagined but (to me, anyway) authentic meeting with "the last great American president."

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger The Flaming Curmudgeon said...

One should always listen to Scott's book recommendations. Always. He recommended this book to me, too, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm now re-reading all the Harry Potter's in prep for the final episode this summer. Recently read JANE EYRE for the first time -- wow. Loves me some melodrama!

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger LSL said...

I really liked The Lovely Bones. (And interesting - the cover turned me off, too.) I liked her book Lucky even better - that might be in my all-time top 20. I think Sebold is from this area, too.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Palm Springs Savant said...

Looks like we may have similar taste in books! By the way, thanks for reading the blog while I was on the cruise. It was fun keeping a travel blog of the trip.

-rick

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger Josh said...

I have been wanting to read that book for a while now, but I haven't sat down and read it.

I just finished reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini. It is the second book in the Eragon series.

It was a decent book, easy read.

 
At 12:30 AM, Blogger TCho said...

I feel like i left this comment before here, but maybe that was another blog. anyway, sorry if i'm repeating myself. I've been reading a lot of foodie non-fiction books--like Anthony Bourdain, Jeffrey Rosengarten.

i'm also reading High Fidelty by Nick Hornsby.

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger judy said...

I have recently read a nonfiction book entitled Red Mutiny by Neal Bascomb. While I'm not normally attracted to naval history or even mutiny books, this one is a winner. It is a swashbuckling tale of mutiny aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin in June of 1905. The author has a gift for the narrative, and he keeps you involved with the characters and on the edge of your seat as he recreates battle scenes and political strife both on land and aboard ship. There is also a fascinating parallel that can be drawn between a rather detached Nicholas II, who is involved in a disastrous war with Japan (Nicholas was easily led into the conflict by close advisors with financial interests that would benefit from such a war)and our own fearless leader.

In any case, it's an entertaining and informative read. I highly recommend it. Oh, and in the interest of fair reviewing, Neal Bascomb just happens to be my son-in-law.

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger Red7Eric said...

The Lovely Bones was a fantastic read. Apparently, someone is making a movie.

I'm currently reading Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I can see some readers complaining that "nothing happens" in the book, and it's true -- the plot isn't nearly as important as the atmosphere. But as someone who didn't have the experience of living in the same small town my whole life, the atmosphere fascinates me.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I just got done with The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. Awesome book not quite what I expected it to be which was fine,I love a suprise. You are likie the 5th person I have heard of that liked that book , guess I should pick it up. Before that was The Quiet Game by Greg Iles he is one of my favorite authors I think I have read all of his stuff.

 

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