June 2007 archive

Lucky – Book Review

If they caught you, long enough for me to see that face again, maybe I would know your name. I could stop calling you ‘the rapist,’ and start calling you John or Luke or Paul. I want to make my hatred large and whole. – From Lucky, pages 98-99-

Alice Sebold has written a searingly honest and brutally explicit memoir about what it is like to experience rape … and then how to move forward through life following such a savage attack. This is not an enjoyable read. It shocked me. Made me angry. Made me weep for what was stolen from Ms. Sebold on the night she was raped.  And scared the wits out of me.

Alice Sebold writes with a rawness that is uncomfortable for the reader. She reveals the coldness of the legal and medical systems in how they deal with rape victims. And ultimately she demonstrates the strength of self a victim needs to survive this type of crime.

A book like Lucky is one that is difficult to read, but I believe it is an important book. I imagine it took Ms. Sebold a tremendous amount of courage to write it. I turned the last page with a new found understanding of what it truly means to be a survivor.

Recommended with a warning that some sections are graphic and disturbing.

Slow Man – Book Review

Why does love, even such love as he claims to practise, need the spectacle of beauty to bring it to life? -From Slow Man, page 149-

This was my first Coetzee novel, and it will not be my last. In Slow Man, Coetzee tells the story of Paul Rayment, an older man who loses his leg in a freak bicycle accident and must decide the path of his life following this devastating event. Paul is a man who has lived a relatively solitary life and regrets his lack of children. He gave up his career as a photographer when colour replaced black and white and digital imagery replaced light-sensitive emulsions because ‘…to the rising generation the enchantment lay in the techne of images without substance, images that could flash throught he ether without resideing anywhere, that could be sucked into a machine and emerge from it doctored, untrue.‘ (From Slow Man, page 65).

As the reader meets the other characters (Marijana, Marianna, Drago, and the bold Elizabeth Costello) she is treated to a literary puzzle about love, loss and mortality. Coetzee engages the reader with sharp dialogue and an edgy wit. He plays with the meaning of words and names – which had me re-reading passages and marking pages for later contemplation.

Slow Man is a demanding novel despite it’s brevity.  At times it is difficult to know which character and whose story can be trusted. Perhaps this idea is best captured as Paul ruminates about his career as a photographer:

He tends to trust pictures more than he trusts words. Not because pictures cannot lie but because, once they leave the darkroom, they are fixed, immutable. Whereas stories – the story of the needle in the bloodstream, for instance, or the story of how he and Wayne Blight came to meet on Magill Road – seem to change shape all the time. -From Slow Man, page 64-


I cannot say more about this novel without giving away important plot points – and so, I will simply recommend that readers read Coetzee’s book for themselves.



Prayers For Nattie

June 7, 2007

This morning the world lost a bright and shining light. Natalie lost her battle with cancer.

It is hard to understand why a person with so much to live for would be taken from us so quickly. My heart hurts. I think of those she has left behind and my grief and tears are for them – not Nattie, who I know is with God now – but for her children, her parents, and her friends who will have to live their lives here on earth without her. There are very few people who can reach across cyberspace and move another’s heart as Nattie did.  Even as she lay in a hospital bed, battling for her life, she thought of others – dictating words for her daddy to write on her blog to sooth and update her many friends.

She was special.

And she will be missed.

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There are times when a person touches one’s heart – it’s inexplicable – but there you have it. A fellow blogger and a member of some of my Yahoo book groups (including my group – ANovelChallenge) is battling cancer. I don’t know why Nattie has touched my heart the way she has, but I feel connected to her. I don’t know Nattie very well. I love reading her blog. I find her wit and her faith uplifting. When  I heard she had been diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer, I felt a deep hurt, a kick in the gut, a feeling of disbelief.  Nattie is young and has two children. She is determined to fight this cancer.

And so I’m asking people who visit my blog to join Nattie’s friends and family in healing prayers.

Nattie’s daddy is posting updates to her blog, which you can find by clicking on the photolink below.

Keeping Faith – Book Review

“The issue in this custody hearing is where the best home is for Faith, ma’am. With all due respect, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for God.” -From Keeping Faith, page 282-

Jodi Picoult is known for writing controversial books (her latest effort – Nineteen Minutes – has already faced bans and challenges since its publication this year), and Keeping Faith is no different. When Mariah White walks in on her husband cheating with another woman (with her seven year old daughter Faith in tow), she can no longer delude herself that she has a perfect marriage. Shortly after this momentous event, Faith begins to see and talk to her “guard” who we later learn is God. Not only does the little girl talk to God, she begins healing others and develops stigmata. As the novel progresses, and Mariah and her now ex-husband feel their way through a contentious custody battle, the characters are all forced to deal with their own beliefs about God and faith.

Like all of Picoult’s novels, this one kept me turning the pages. It is filled with complex characters who are not always what they seem. The idea of faith, religion and our belief systems are all explored with a flare for storytelling that I’ve come to expect from Picoult. There is also an underlying theme of what it means to be a parent, and more specifically what it means to be both a mother and a daughter.

Mariah (Faith’s mother) builds doll houses for a living – she creates tiny furniture and floor coverings and includes the smallest details in her work, but leaves out the people. Using this framework, Picoult seamlessly weaves together the concept of the mother-daughter relationship and how it connects back to God.

She can see the tiny bathroom fixtures and the knotty-pine floors in the bedrooms and the kitchen cabinet that is still ajar. She can see into the most private parts of this house without even having to try. This is what it’s like, she thinks, to be God. She considers this for a moment, thinking of all the young girls who play so easily at being a divine being – able to put their doll-house families through their paces. Mariah glances up at the ceiling and wonders if God is doing the same thing to her and Faith.

And then:

So she grew up to build houses without dolls, places where furniture was bolted down and glued into position, homes where nothing was left to chance. And yet, Mariah realizes that she still didn’t make a clean escape. Manipulation, responsibility, watchfulness. It is not so different, really, from being a mother.

-From Keeping Faith, pages 236-237-

This book held me spellbound. It is compulsively readable and will make readers re-think their beliefs and wonder at the strength of their faith.

Highly recommended.

Reading World Literature

Thanks to Sarah at Loose Baggy Monster for pointing me in the direction of a wonderful site which promotes reading works in translation: Reading The World. I’ve added this site to my sidebar under “favorites” so readers of my blog can easily find this link. This site is currently promoting some very exciting books. They say:

These forty books represent some of the most exciting literature being written outside the United States. From Lithuania to Iraq, from Norway to Chile, the writers offer an excellent introduction to a variety of cultures and ideas found outside our borders—ideas and cultures that we must have access to in order to understand our world.

They also have links to some interesting International LitBlogs.

I’ve started browsing – and I can see this will add to my reading list very quickly!

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