Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara

 A Little Life; Hanya  Yanagihara
Doubleday - March - 2015

When I first decided to read this book, I thought that the cover image was a terrible choice, however, after finishing this 700+ pp book over the course of a few weeks, I now think the image is perfect.  It so accurately depicts the emotional pain, physical pain and trauma experienced by the focus character, Jude, from childhood through adulthood. I loved this book. It is by far, the BEST book I've read in years.

A Little Life, is a novel about a 30 year friendship of 4 male college friends. Jean Baptiste (JB) a self-centered artist, Malcolm, an architect, Willem, a kind, caring man and actor, and Jude, a handsome, brilliant man who entered college at 16. He is now a successful, but deeply troubled attorney.  

Nick-named by his friends, Saint Jude, (Patron Saint of lost causes), Jude's friends really know very little about their friend. He keeps his painful childhood himself. As an adult he is mostly crippled and, oftentimes must rely on his wheelchair to get around.  He tells his friends he was in a car accident at the age of 15, but there is much more to that story than is initially revealed. Abandoned as an infant, he never knew anything about his parents, he was in and out of group homes, and he even spent years with monks at a monastery. 

Just when Jude felt there was some adult he could trust, his hopes were crushed by some cruel act by someone who he hoped had cared about him. When he thinks that his situation couldn't get any worst, it does.  His first gift ever was at the age of 5, a fossil which he cherished, given to him by Brother Luke, a monk who would later betray him.

It is difficult to say to much more without revealing spoilers -- there are several reviews out there that give away way too many details, which will spoil the reading experience for others. The story is well paced and I was quickly drawn into the story and into Jude's dark world, and his past and present pain and trauma, which is slowly revealed. Even when he is in a happy situation, he can't stop himself from dwelling on the fact he feels so unworthy of any form of happiness.

Although the story was sad, heartbreaking really, the reader will also see that there is much kindness toward Jude by his friends and others who truly cared about him. Willem, who is guardedly allowed to be part of Jude's life. Harold, a former Harvard Law professor, who wants to adopt Jude as his own son, and Andy, a friend and doctor who is there for Jude when he desperately needed someone to help him. 

A Little Life, cuts deep; it's real and gritty, yet beautiful as well. It's a book that examines, the good, the bad and the ugly people and things in life. It forces the reader to think about the uncomfortable things in life, the life long effects of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and trauma.  It makes you wonder whether, even as adults, with supportive individuals ones side, is it ever possible to free oneself from the trauma of the past?  This book is certainly not a good choice for the faint of heart reader -- individuals who shy away from graphic descriptions of abusive situations in various forms.  This is one of those stories that will stick in my mind forever. I am so very happy I read this book, it makes my less than perfect childhood seem almost normal after reading this book. Hanya Yanagihara is a talented individual. In fact, I just started reading her debut novel, The People in the Trees, which I am also enjoying. 

Thanks to John Pitts, VP from Doubleday for providing me with a finished copy of this book.

5/5 stars

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

Can you believe it snowed here for a good 6 hours yesterday? Not much accumulated because it was mid 30s. but geez could you give us a break please?  The next week means Passover (Friday) and Easter (Sunday) celebrations for many -- we actually celebrate both. I'm especilly looking forward to a small family dinner. It will be fun putting together 3 small Easter baskets for the grandaughters, even though only the oldest will really enjoy it this year.  Do you have any special plans to celebrate?

Last Week's Reading and Reviews
  1. Fetch; Jorey Hurley - 5/5 (library) (March) (pre school)
  2. Findng Spring; Carin Berger 3.5/5 (library) (March) (preschool)
  3. Us, David Nicholls 4/5 (eGalley) (March)
  4. The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd 4.5/5 (eGalley) (March)
  • Last Night I finally finished A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara  - I took this 700 page book very very slow.  It's a wonderful, extremely well-written, but heart breaking story.  It will be hard to review without giving spoilers, but I'll try to write one this week. PLEASE - take the time to read this book - it is unlike anything that I have ever read in the past.  I LOVED it so much, I just began the audio version of the author's debut novel, The People in the Trees.

New Books - The last (2) weeks many new books arrived by mail [grin]. So many of these seem like real winners.

Enjoy your week everyone!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd
Viking - 2014

I'm not a huge fan of true stories that are later fictionalized, so when this book was first released, I was curious, but didn't rush out to read it. It's this month's discussion book at our library, so I decided to give it a try.

Sarah Grimke and her younger sister Angelina (Nina) were born into a wealthy, slave-holding, Charleston family in the early 1800s.  In real life, these sisters rebelled and became leading forces for women, fighting hard to abolish slavery, despite being ostracised by those closest to them.

The novel begins with Sarah being given her own personal slave for her eleventh birthday. The slave girl, Handful (Hetty), was presented to Sarah with a big fancy bow around her neck.  Even at her early age Sarah realizes what her parents have done is wrong. She refuses the gift, but realizes that she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. She is punished by her father and banned from his library, after she writes a document to "free" her newly gifted slave Handful.

Sarah is strong willed and realizes she may not win the battle, but wants to make Hetty's situation better for her.  Sarah secretly teaches Hetty to read, something that is clearly forbidden.  The connection between the two girls strengthens Sarah's determination to change the way things are as she matures. She fights hard against slavery and the treatment of women as second class citizens.

The story alternates from the POV of the women from as early as 1803 through1838.  I loved that the women had distinct voices. Hetty and her mother Charlotte were determined, resilient women who became top notch seamstresses, depite the fact neither were allowed to go to school.  The one thing that bothered me a bit was, what I felt, was the over use of the word "slave" -- just seemed so degrading.

I can see why this book has been a top pick for book groups everywhere as well as an Oprah pick. So many issues to discuss: women's issues, slavery, friendship, sisters, freedom and more.  It's a story that truly demostrates the plight of women at that time -- white women, as well as slave women at this point in history.  I thought about the title as well, and, it seems just so perfect "the invention of wings" to rise above what once was. Happy I had a chance to finally read this one.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Girl in the Moonlight; Charles Dubow

Girl in the Moonlight; Charles Dubow
William Morrow - May 2015


The author of Indiscretion returns with a scorching tale of love, passion, and obsession, about one man’s all-consuming desire for a beautiful, bewitching, and beguiling woman.
Since childhood, Wylie Rose has been drawn to the charming, close-knit Bonet siblings. But none affected him more than the enchanting Cesca, a girl blessed with incandescent beauty and a wild, irrepressible spirit.
Growing up, Wylie’s friendship with her brother, Aurelio, a budding painter of singular talent, brings him near Cesca’s circle. A young woman confident in her charms, Cesca is amused by Wylie’s youthful sensuality and trusting innocence. Toying with his devotion, she draws him closer to her fire—ultimately ruining him for any other woman.
Spanning several decades, moving through the worlds of high society, finance, and art, and peopled with poignant characters, Girl in the Moonlight takes us on a whirlwind tour, from the wooded cottages of old East Hampton to the dining rooms of Upper East Side Manhattan to the bohemian art studios of Paris and Barcelona. As he vividly brings to life Wylie and Cesca’s tempestuous, heart-wrenching affair, Charles Dubow probes the devastating depths of human passion and the nature of true love.

I loved the last book written by Charles Dubow, Indiscretion . Have you read it?