Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010, 562 pages)
The characters that narrate Freedom seem like a normal functional family from the outside. Joey is defiant and fiercely independent, especially towards his parents. His mother, Patty, has a strong competitive nature. Her husband, Walter, is concerned with overpopulation and the balance of nature. Richard is Walter’s best friend and a gifted musician. But inside they are all dark and twisted because they are lost in their lives and with each other.
I enjoyed this read even though I never found myself liking any of the characters. This is really a story about being lost and trying to find your way, even if it takes years or many hurt feelings to do it. Those are sometimes the hardest to read, but the resolution the characters find makes it worth it.
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, 2008, 336 pages)
Yes, I do admit that I put off reading this book until I saw the trailer for the film adaptation that came out earlier this month. But Sparks again successfully hooks his reader by keeping them guessing till the very end about the future of his characters.
The Lucky One is about marine Logan Thibault who finds a picture of an unknown woman which becomes his good luck charm while in Iraq and after he returns home. Logan feels compelled to find the woman in the picture and repay her for the luck she had brought him. The only problem is he doesn’t know her name, where she lives, or how to explain to her why he has her picture. Simple right?
There is of course a love story that develops and twists that made me wonder if Logan and his mystery woman were going to end up together in the end. It was a very fast read and I’m glad I chose to read it before I saw the film, which I am putting off seeing.
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell
(Scribner, 1992, 416 pages)
I became a fan of Cornwell after the two books I read last year. I bought a few more from our annual used book sale. This book is one of the early ones in the Scarpetta series. The main characters are Kay Scarpetta, Virginia chief medical examiner, and Pete Marino, a detective in the Richmond Police Department.
The story starts with a missing couple; the case is soon connected to four other couples murdered over the past few years. The challenge here is that all the bodies were found after they were degraded and the cause of death is difficult to determine. The pressure to solve the case is intense when the mother of the latest victim is a high-profile politician. This book has a good plot with unexpected twists and an ok ending. I enjoyed it.
Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
(Ecco Press, 2009, 442 pages)
This was a dark and interesting story. It takes place in Sparta, New York (a fictional place) primarily during the 80s. The story revolves around an unsolved murder that connects two teenagers. Krista Diehl’s father is one of the main suspects in the murder of Zoe Kruller. Zoe’s son, Aaron, refuses to believe that his father (another potential suspect) could have killed his mother, despite his abusive nature. Krista is just as sure that her father couldn’t possibly have been the killer. Krista and Aaron’s lives are now connected and they can’t seem to escape one another.
Little Bird of Heaven is broken up and told from the perspective of both Krista and Aaron. We see what they went through as teenagers while also getting a chance to hear from them as adults when they suddenly re-enter each other’s lives in an attempt to hopefully gain some closure.
The narration was dark and slightly hypnotic. It’s more about Aaron and Krista and how they react to one another and the tragedy in their lives than it is about solving the murder which is central to the story. I’m curious to check out more of Oates’s earlier work – this didn’t wow me, but her novel, Blonde, definitely did.
Rainwater by Sandra Brown
(Simon & Schuster, 2009, 256 pages)
Ella, the owner of a small boarding house, has an autistic son. She loves her son and is determined to keep him from harm and ridicule. She suspects her husband abandoned her years ago because he was ashamed of their child. She offers lodging and board to a select few. The local doctor brings a prospective boarder to Ella. Ella could not have known that Mr. Rainwater, a dying man, would show her so many things about life.
Set during the Great Depression when many were without work and food, this riveting story displays compassion and desire to find the hidden talents of the boy and demonstrating how small town bullies struck with jealousy and envy try to squash the hopes of Ella, her son, and other misfortunates.
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
(New American Library, 2010, 372 pages)
A friend from library school had recommended this author to me and I finally got around to checking her out. Even though it took a while, I’m glad I did! Lancaster’s writing style is humorous and accessible. She’s published a number of memoirs and this one has me wanting to read the ones that came before. In My Fair Lazy Lancaster decides she wants to re-culture herself. She’s been sucked into the world of reality shows and pop culture and she wants to be able to have culturally conscious and meaningful conversations with her peers instead of constantly connecting situations to The Real World or Big Brother.
The reader goes with Jen as she expands her horizons through trying different global cuisines, reading literary classics, attending the theater, trying cooking classes, and so on. She refers to this as a “cultural Jenaissance.” I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this and I also felt a connection with her goal to get cultured. Especially in today’s society it’s easy to fall under the pop culture spell (I’m addicted to celebrity gossip – I admit it!) so this was a nice reminder that there’s a ton of enlightening and unique stuff out there to experience, and you’ll be a better person for doing it.
Really enjoyed this book 🙂
Untouchable by Scott O’Connor
(Tyrus Books, 2011, 384 pages)
Untouchable by Scott O’Connor was a “Free Friday Nook book” from Barnes & Noble which I decided to download. Untouchable is the story of a father and son who are still dealing with the loss of their wife/mother. The son, known as The Kid, hasn’t spoken since his mother died. The father is a trauma-site clean-up technician who can’t accept his wife’s death and move on.
For me, reading Untouchable was like watching a train wreck happen. You don’t really want to see the trauma and destruction, but you want to know what’s going to happen. The characters in Untouchable start out dysfunctional and become more dysfunctional. It’s not really clear as the book progresses if the ending will be tragic, really tragic, or happier than expected.
Untouchable was not my normal choice for reading material. Sometimes, it is worthwhile to step outside your comfort zone as it was for me with this book. The characters in this book will stay with me long after I return to my usual choices in reading.