Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
(Ecco Press, 2000, 738 pages)
Blonde is Joyce Carol Oates’s fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Even though I opened the book knowing that it was fiction, as I was reading I had to continually keep reminding myself that this wasn’t meant to be a biographical account (though Oates did make use of various biographical and historical sources to lend a sense of authenticity to the text). There’s no question that she did an amazing job drawing the reader into the life of Marilyn Monroe (aka Norma Jean Baker).
Blonde takes you through Marilyn’s life from early childhood to her untimely death in 1962. The amazing thing about the book is how you’re almost instantaneously drawn in, seeing life through Marilyn’s eyes. You’re in her head, experiencing the ups and downs of her life right along with her – forced to see her as more than just a glamorous and beautiful movie star. That being said, while this book will pull you in, it gets incredibly dark and depressing as you read. I would actually find myself feeling down after taking a break from the book. That shouldn’t deter anyone from picking it up – it’s a great read and I’d highly recommend it; especially to people intrigued by Marilyn Monroe and her life. I’ve read a biography or two in the past and now I find myself itching to read more about her and determine how much of Oates’s account was truly based on fact. I think Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters will be my next Marilyn book – the recently released (fall 2010) publication of a collection of Marilyn’s personal writings.
*If you’re interested in another “fictionalized biography” I’d recommend American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – it’s meant to be loosely based on former First Lady, Laura Bush.
The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
(Shaye Areheart Books, 2009, 325 pages)
I really enjoyed this new novel by Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, Here on Earth). She writes in a sort of magical realist style that allows you to navigate through the tragic events in the lives of the three Story sisters: Elv, Meg, and Claire. Storytelling is a big part of the novel, not only the stories of the eldest sister, tales of magical worlds with fairies and demons, but also the stories the other characters bring to the table.
Hoffman seems to point out how storytelling can be beautiful and healing, but escaping into the stories can be harmful by keeping us from dealing with important realities in our lives and the lives of those we love. The Story Sisters shows us how dependent we are on one another; the ties that bind a family together, in both good ways and bad.
“They weren’t true stories; they were better than that.”
– Alice Hoffman (The Story Sisters)
Invisible Prey by John Sandford
(Putnam, 2007, 384 pages)
This is the first book I’ve read by John Sandford and it’s an enjoyable read. The story is set in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The first chapter starts with the brutal murder of a rich elderly woman and her maid. Lucas Davenport (a police detective) was working on this case and another case involving a state politician who’s been accused of having sex with a minor. At first, the murder case look like it was a burglary gone bad. However, as more clues are discovered Lucas is able to find a couple similar murders and a common thread among them: antiques. The second case was intertwined with the main case at times, but it was distracting.
While this wasn’t a page-turner for me I enjoyed a great deal of the world of art, antiques and museums that the story brought in. Lucas is believable, intelligent, witty and likable. There is a very interesting character named Sandy, a part-time college student and part-time researcher for the department. Sandy would wade through tons of data and apply criteria/limiters to narrow down the list. Sound familiar? It would be nice to keep Sandy in all the Sandford crime fighting books and make her a library student 😉
Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman (Revell, 2010, 279 pages)
When I began reading Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman, I found myself relating to her early life. Relating to the idea of having a life all planned out, stable, and in control. This early life of the author all takes place in chapter one, Winter. Reading chapter two, Not My Plan, is where I pulled out the tissue and the author shared such tragedy that her only hope was to give control of her life to God and how she is still choosing to SEE.
Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman, tells her life story with all its struggles and trials in total honesty and grace. Their family’s tragic loss directs them to turn toward their faith and there they find the ability to SEE the hope they were seeking. Author Beth Moore said “Every now and then a book comes along that is not only great – it’s a gift. An extravagant gift. This is one of those books.” Hmmmm… “an extravagant gift”…. yes, that best describes this book.