I enjoyed Zeitoun and was anxious to have Eggars describe Saudi Arabia. However, I never developed any empathy for Alan or his team of three. His liaison with his doctor was contrived. The narrator's breathy voice had little variation. Who got the contract? - no surprise here either. But I didn't care.
This is a story of two parallel cases of child neglect, abuse, and abandonment - three generations apart, but all too similar. The characters are vividly drawn and situations so real that I was compelled to listen from start to finish in one day. The author does a masterful job of interspersing the two main characters' stories. Her details are so vivid that you can imagine lice burrowing into your scalp, snow flakes peppering your bedding, and the wooden seats on a journey to the unknown.
From the tender (her back's burden) to the tragic (her pet horse), this memoir was alive. The detail was riveting and masterfully interwoven with universal themes and self-discovery. I felt Strayed's anticipation for those boxes waiting along the route, and disappointment when they weren't there. I feared for her life and was dismayed with her impulsiveness. I cared.
The main drawback of this book was that I never developed any empathy for Cora, and I struggled between two and three stars - three for the historical research, two because the plot seemed too contrived, as if it existed just to deliver the details of the period. And those details were somewhat superficial. No build-up to Luise's being chosen for the dancing company's troupe. Few feelings expressed after Cora's sexuality was declared off-limits after the birth of her twins. And the twins were phantom characters - they might as well have been still-born for the little they added to the plot.
From a reader who's saved Quindlen's "The Good Enough Mother" in my documents so I can send it to frazzled moms, I treasure her homespun revelations. The author's narration is so clear and heartfelt that we could have been sharing life's milestones over coffee at my kitchen table.
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