Jeff Wheelwright covers a lot of ground here - from the Hispano communities in NE New Mexico to Ashkenazi Jewish history - modern and ancient. He zeros in on the story of the life and death of Shonnie Medina and segues gracefully into larger story of the history of genetic testing and the rather bitter sounding debate among New Mexico's anthropologists about whether a form of covert Judaism was practiced there by settlers arrived from Mexico. And more.
If all of this sounds chaotic, it isn't. It's the skillful handing of the backstory a reader needs to understand how a 28 year-old Jehovah's Witness in New Mexico died from a mutation in the DNA of a Semitic woman about twenty-four hundred years ago, how the mutation traveled and what can (or can't) be done by and for those carrying it.
The book was fascinating. Recommend.
I have to confess so that you know when you're evaluating this review and deciding how much weight to give it, I'm a fan of Mitch Albom's earlier work. His writing, that is. I had my doubts when I saw that he was narrating The First Phone Call from Heaven. But those doubts quickly evaporated. He's a great reader and enhanced the listen. So, kudos there.
The other question that came quickly into my mind is what happens when a sympathetic writer (Albom) portrays an unsympathetic character (Sully) behaving unsympathetically? The answer, it turned out, was subtle, but unmistakable suspense. I fell for Sully and was really intrigued to find out where the phone calls were coming from. Heaven or hoax? The telling was skillful enough that several times I wasn't sure which answer I was hoping would turn out to be true and found myself changing sides.
Since I'm writing this review to encourage you to listen to the book (well worth the credit, though a departure from Mitch Albom's earlier books, in content though the Albom pathos lingers...) I won't spoil the ending. I can say that it kept me engaged right through the end and, in the end, I was satisfied. I won't be surprised if I revisit this book in my library again.
After so much chick lit, The Rosie Project took me by surprise. It's not chick lit. It reminded me of the Adrian Mole diaries, by Sue Townsend in the 80's and 90's, and is in that much rarer and much more traditional genre - the comic novel.
The protagonist, Professor Don Tillman, has a flaw, as all great comic protagonists must, that has prevented him ever getting a second date with a woman. So he embarks on "The Wife Project" to find a compatible woman and instead meets Rosie, a completely incompatible barmaid/Ph.D candidate, on a quest to find the identity of her father.
I laughed and winced and rooted for Don as he fell under Rosie's spell, against his own better judgment (which he analyzes in agonizing detail) and the hours flew by.
I can't remember the last five star rating I gave a book. I usually top out at four. But I listened to this book straight through and have to say if it isn't five stars, then I don't know what is.
This is a premise so fierce that I hesitated to select the title. And I think I'm going to be haunted by this book for quite some time (at least as long as it takes me to download the second in the series, that is...) The book is set in a world of the future where the United States has fought another civil war. This time abortion is the issue instead of slavery. So a compromise has reached. A pregnancy can be aborted only retroactively by "unwinding" a kid (and harvesting all the parts, so the kid is really dead, just divided) between the ages of 13 to 18. Kind of a "try before you buy" idea. Scary, eh?
Into this world comes Connor whose parents signed the unwind order, but instead of being taken by surprise by Juvie Cops, Connor finds out beforehand and runs. When they catch him, he resists and he escapes. He meets up with two other unwinds who join his fight to stay alive. And this is in the first fifteen minutes. The pacing is breakneck and the writing is okay. Not great, but good enough to tell the story convincingly.
One thing that pleased me about the book is that it is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. But shows a world where ANY position, if taken far enough to the extreme, results in insanity. If there is a genre called Young Adult in a Very Disturbing Future this is it.
So it turns out there's a very different reaction when an attractive, college-educated woman turns to prostitution and heroin addiction in Australia than the one people use where I'm from (U.S.). There is much less shame, much more matter-of-fact acceptance (her parents told the neighbors!) and much more detail provided on her life working in the brothel and her clients than I was prepared for.
The book hooked me though, because I didn't realize there was another way of looking at heroin/prostitution than hopeless/shame/despair. Kate Holden doesn't adopt that tone and I have to admit, it made the book really stand out to me. On the other hand, she doesn't exactly recommend the lifestyle. She's a reporter - here's what I did, here's why, here's how I felt, here's what I did next, etc.
It is written from the addict's point of view and I can see how it might anger some family members or others who've suffered from the addiction of loved ones. But it did make me think. And I never once doubted her story was true (Looking at you sideways, James Frey.)
All in all, if you're looking for a tour through the guts of addiction, here you go. But it wasn't what I expected - in a good way.
The amazing Nancy Wake lived life LARGE. But unlike a tale of simple heroics, Peter Fitzsimmons doesn't shy away from the trouble she had reintegrating into a world not at war, how she never felt at home in Australia, her financial worries, her failure at politics and her tumultuous relationship with her mother, amongst other things that made her seem terribly human. I admired her bravery and her cleverness, but I felt for her because of her faults. But she had the last laugh! Well played, Nancy. Recommend.
I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is to be able to hold two contradictory beliefs in your mind at the same time and believe both equally. That's where Maxed Out left me. Half of me really agreed with the thesis that the American system (as opposed to Sweden which is portrayed as a working parents' Nirvana) is broken and working mothers are set up to fail.
The other half of my mind found Katrina Alcorn an over-priveleged whiner who had a great spouse, healthy kids, owned her own home, full health insurance for whole family debt free except the mortgage, high-paying, creative job (where demands such as having to review project proposals wete viewed as mind-breaking stress. Really?) Fantastic, understanding boss who loved her. Got her daughter in one of the very, very few good public schools in the East Bay. (I live here too.) Got invited to the Ted Conference. Had to sacrifice mommy yoga, making organic baby food, and cloth diapers when she returned to her job where she was highly valued and over praised and allowed to work a four day week. AND WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THAT?
So, a dilemma. I think the subject is worthy, but I didn't buy Katrina Alcorn as the poster child for the working mother. (Though she is quite childish in places...) I found myself thinking most women I know would love to have her problems. But these are women with real problems - addicted kids, cancer either in themselves or close family members, unemployment, houses in foreclosure, etc. I look forward to more reviews to see what others think. The book is well written and supported by interesting sociological research. More interesting than the author's story, in fact.
I downloaded this book because it got a great review from a reviewer I follow (thanks, Elizabeth) and I'm glad I did. I'd never heard of Liane Moriarty before, but now I'd compare her to Jennifer Crusie for her writing style and Lisa Lutz for the story. The voices of the characters are distinct and if I had to pick a favorite, there'd be trouble. All three of the female lead characters - plus Felicity - fascinated me. I felt oddly like I knew them very well and yet was constantly caught off guard by their next moves.
I have to admit that I guessed the ending. But that only increased my interest because I couldn't be sure. This book, while not literary per se, nor a thriller exactly, hovered somewhere in between - in the genre now known as "a Moriarty."
Caroline Lee's performance enhanced the listen. Recommend.
I downloaded this as a gift from Audible and was really surprised at the simple eloquence of Kurt Vonnegut's speeches. Things I never knew about the author - that he had seven children, that he was a speech writer for GE, and what makes the perfect joke - are woven into his advice on marriage, career and thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount (he's impressed by it). Enjoyed it!
I have an interest in hoarding that I find hard to explain to myself, since I've never seen it in my own family (we're mainly drunkards) nor among my friends (more victims of bad taste rather than hoarders.) I suspect it may be a reflection of my own "everything in its place, and I mean EVERYTHING, do I have to do everything around here myself? Were you raised by wild pigs?" mentality.
But whatever the reason, since awareness of the disorder (and I do think it's a mental disorder with physical symptoms) surfaced in mainstream culture, I've been fascinated. I think I really want to know why someone would do this to themselves and their families.
Kimberly Rae Miller does not answer this question. Instead, she gives us an insider's look at what it is like to grow up in a hoard and to love the parents who "chose the stuff over me." I was really surprised by the strength of the love binding Kim and her parents, bonds that all the stuff in the world couldn't break (though there were times...)
I admit I was teary-eyed at several places in the narrative, which the author does very skillfully herself. At the end, I was pretty sure that Kim is as in the dark as most people who do not have the disorder are about why hoarders do the things that they do, but that she was lucky to come from the family she did nonetheless.
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