I didn’t get a lot of blogging done over the holidays, so I got a little behind. Here’s a quick look at three books I read over Christmas this year:
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Based on all the good things I’ve heard about this book, I expected to like it more than I did. I did enjoy this book, and I thought it was touching, but it didn’t blow me away. I was happy to be reading it, but when I put it down, I didn’t feel the urge to pick it up again. I don’t know why- maybe because I knew how it was going to end. The book discussions and the moving story kept me going, though, and I am happy that I read it.
This is a good book if you are a book lover, or if you’re looking for an inspirational read full of life lessons. In the book, Will and his mother have their own little book club, just between the two of them. Reading and talking about books was a way for them to talk about meaningful things that might not otherwise have come up in their everyday conversation. The list of books they read together is impressive and can be found in the index at the back of the book. And, who can resist all the lovely quotes about books and reading? This is just a small sampling.
You could say that the book club became our life, but it would be more accurate to say that our life became a book club.
That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.
… whenever you read something wonderful, it changes your life, even if you aren’t aware of it.
We’re all in the end-of-our-lives book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.
… I came to realize that the greatest gift of our book club was that it gave me time and opportunity to ask her things, not tell her things.
So many great books were mentioned in this memoir, but I have to say that I was happiest when he talked about The Story of Ferdinand.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This novel was good, and I can see why people like it; the writing is compelling, the story is mysterious, and there are twists in the plot, but there was just something about it that I wanted to rush through.
The message in We Were Liars, underlying the haunting and devastating storyline, is of forgiveness (I think). But, because we don’t know what has happened until the end, most of the book is filled with teens behaving like teens and adults behaving like children. I don’t want to give any of it away, so that is all I will say.
We Were Liars was a fun, quick read for me at a busy time of year, and now I will be able to talk with my daughter about it once she’s read it. If she’ll let me, that is. I think, next time, though, I will read one of her John Green novels. I did like A Fault in Our Stars.
Ru by Kim Thúy
After reading Mãn a few months ago, I became interested in reading her first book, Ru. I had heard that it was even better. Then, it showed up on this year’s Canada Reads list, which gave me the little push I needed to finally read it.
Ru tells the story of a Vietnamese family who escape the war in their country, and come to settle in Canada. It goes back and forth between their new lives in Canada and their old lives in Vietnam. I found it similar to Mãn in both the writing style and the content. The story and circumstances are different, but the characters are still immigrants, trying to figure out how to fit in and live in their new country. I love learning about the cultural differences between the two countries.
Ru tells more about the refugee experience; having to leave your country of birth because of war and come to a new country and re-invent yourself. How do you do it? How does it affect you? What scars do you carry?
In one second we had seen our own ambivalence, our hybrid state: half this, half that, nothing at all and everything at once.
Alone as much as together, all those individuals from my past have shaken the grime off their backs in order to spread their wings in plumage of red and gold, before thrusting themselves sharply towards the great blue space, decorating my children’s sky, showing them that one horizon always hides another and it goes on like that to infinity, to the unspeakable beauty of renewal, to intangible rapture.
Another moving and poetic novel by Kim Thúy that would appeal to anyone who loves language, history, and culture.