Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
Audible has its way of pulling you into unexpected stories. One day, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" (2003) popped up for the price of a latte. I think it's meant to be 'Young Adult', a genre I don't usually read - but it had awesome reviews. I skipped Starbucks, had black coffee at the office, and bought the book.
I'm a huge fan of Temple Grandin, the autistic author of, most recently, "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" (2013). Dr. Grandin thinks differently than neuro-typical people and does a great job at describing that. So does Mark Haddon in "The Curious Incident".
Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician hates the colors yellow and brown, and is in a 'special school' to help him lean, among other things, to understand what the expressions on people's faces mean. The book starts with Chapter 2 (on purpose, it's not an editing problem - and there's a good reason for it), when Christopher discovers Wellington, his neighbors' poodle, pitch forked to death.
Christopher is determined to solve the mystery, just like his one fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes. Christopher does, with the directness of someone with 'no filters', as well as the physical and mental pain 'no filters' for audio, visual and tactile senses causes. He is tenacious and brave - and while he doesn't say it, autistic. Like the best fiction, Haddon draws us into someone we aren't.
I know that this is Assigned Reading in a lot of English classes, and there are Themes and Meanings that are to be gleaned. I don't think Haddon meant to write an Important Book, I think he was writing a nifty story that turned out to have lessons. Enjoy the mystery first, and then worry about the message. The book quotes well - the title of this review is one.
The narration was good - I get a kick out of Jeff Woodman's English accent.
The book was worth a week of lattes. Or two. Or a month.
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Cancer books seem to fall into IMPORTANT categories, like factual and vaguely or actually scary (Siddhartha Mukharjee's 2010 "The Emperor of All Maladies"); herbs/alternate life style/dietarily inspirational ("A Dietician's Cancer Story" Diana Dyer, 2010); humorously practical (Fran Drescher's "Cancer Schmancer" 2003); or melancholy and ending with the death of a neighborhood curmudgeon and/or a loved one (too many to name) who passes on an Important Life Lesson just before dying. If you're looking for one of these kind of books, then John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" (2012) isn't for you.
I had avoided Green's book for a long time because I was afraid it would be one of those latter Inspiring Stories, a saccharine sweet tale that tastes okay going down, but leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I was wrong.
"The Fault in Our Stars" was a heartbreaker, but in a clear, unsentimental and pragmatic way. 16 year old Hazel Grace and 17 year old Augustus Waters probably had my fellow commuters wondering just what kind of breakdown I was having. They would have had time to notice: I sobbed through an entire chapter, with traffic stop and stop again.
Is "The Fault in Our Stars" true to a 16 year old girl? I don't know. I was a 16 year old girl for a year, and I'd like to think I can relate - but I was 16 in a different century. Kind of LATE in a different century, but still - a different century.
Green's an unobtrusive voice, but he comes through in Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters scared parents. The parents want nothing more than to spend what time is left with their children; and their teens want nothing more than to be normal - you know, embarrassed by hovering moms; sneaking out the window on naive dads; and taking absurd risks and going on adventures. Come to think of it, it was the Mom in me crying with the parents.
"The Fault in Our Stars" haunts and is haunting. It's a good listen.
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Patricia McCormick's "Sold" (2006) is nominally a Young Adult novel. According to the current version of Wikipedia, that means writing directed at readers age 14 to 21. The narrator, Lakshmi, is 13 and turns 14 during the novel, so nominally, it is about a young adult.
In actuality, "Sold" is incredibly disturbing but not graphic story. Lakshmi becomes one of thousands of Nepalese children traded into modern sexual slavery. Her mother, Ama, is a typical failure of an uneducated mother, raised to please men, and unable to care for her oldest child. Unnamed stepfather sees Lakshmi as a possession to be sold as a maid and house cleaner to pay off his gambling debts. Lakshmi is traded three or four times, each time for more money. Eventually, she lands in brothel called Happiness House. There's an evil, cheating Madam, Mumtaz, who sells Lakshmi's innocence, twice.
Stock characters aside, "Sold" is a well researched and sensitive portrayal of crimes that the United Nations has been trying to stop for decades. It's one thing to read dry numbers about crop failures, annual family incomes, and human smuggling, but that's not really effective with people born in wealthy countries like the United States. There is poverty in America, but it's not the kind of poverty that regularly claims more than half of its children in their first year. There are droughts, but they don't result in mass starvation. And education is mandatory, not a luxury.
A book like "Sold" makes it possible to empathize with a country and culture so different that even the statistics don't make the situation real.
Would I let my kids read/listen to this? Yes, and I have no reservations about my senior in high school with this book. My 14 year old? Well, it's nightmare-inducing scary. I'm glad I listened to it first so I'll be able to answer questions she'll have if she does read.
The Audible is fine, and the narrator handles non-Western names with ease. I would have been fine reading this in text, though - to me, Nepali and Indian names sound like they are written. Years of listening to Lakshmi Singh/NPR will do that for you.
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