Revealing. Intriguing. Research-based.
The television show Hoarders and its contemporaries have revealed just how common the affliction of hoarding is, and how it exists in places and people that you might not suspect (as well as in people who seem just as you might think a hoarder might be). As the child of a hoarder who was not as extreme as the ones often televised, I find these shows of interest, because I can identify with many of the challenges faced by the families of the hoarders. That said, I think that the shows often go for the cheap shot, the thing that will make audiences go "Ewwww!" and recoil, rather than any nuanced version of the situation. The holier-than-thou, let's-throw-it-all-away attitude of some of the "hoarding specialists" (not the mental health professionals) on the shows often tread on my patience, even as I recognize that the hoarders themselves frequently are some of the most irrational people one might ever encounter. Television may just be too sensationalistic in its coverage of this topic.
"Stuff," on the other hand, is a better treatment. Firstly, because it is based on actual research by individuals who took the time to do systematic interviews with different types of hoarders. The researchers themselves had no idea how widespread the hoarding situation was when they first began addressing it, prodded by a student's interest (cheers to student initiative!) and uncovered a great deal of interesting subject matter. The case studies provide depth and texture to the individuals who suffer from this affliction, while illustrating broader characteristics that the researchers have found that many hoarders share.
Secondly, the case studies are described without that pitched, sensationalistic tone that is so common in the shows. To be fair, the things that are occasionally described can still be gruesome and downright disturbing, but the narrator describes them matter-of-factly, because the point is to understand what is going on, not to oogle at the train wreck.
Extreme might be too strong a word. However, I found myself nodding in some cases at the similarity of the rationales offered by hoarders in the book to those I heard often in my own childhood, uttered by my parent. Other times, my experience differed widely from what was described, but it offered that comfort that sometimes comes when we find out that we are not alone in something odd/shameful/bewildering that we have experienced. For others who have loved ones who are hoarders, I would recommend the book for that reason as well as for the bits of insight into the characteristics that the researchers have found that hoarders share. It is not a book of cures, and while it does provide some insights into certain therapies that have had successes, the researchers are careful to note that this is a very difficult affliction to treat as it often goes to the core of people's emotional selves.
If you have a hoarder in your life or are someone who encounters them (working at a health department or human services organization), I recommend this book as a way to try to develop some insight about the not just the individual case(s) you might be dealing with, but to the breadth of the problem in our society today. Keep an open mind. It is important to understand that hoarders are not just lazy or silly or dirty or any of the other myriad "easy" explanations that people sometimes assume... there is more to it than that and while passing judgment is easy... it is hardly productive or fitting a society as advanced as ours.
Many of the reviews I read before talked about how wonderful this book was as a tale of friendship, betrayal and redemption. Frankly, I think it's well written, well plotted, and as other reviewers have noted, tremendously interesting in its portrayal of the Afghanistan that was before the Taliban.
But I found myself repeatedly and increasingly angry with the main character, Amir. I rarely have found a less sympathetic character. Even as he gets older and supposedly enters the "redemption phase" of his tale, he continues to be a self-centered, selfish individual. The selfless act he performs as redemption is motivated by his own shame, not ever the well-being of the individuals involved. He continues to be obtuse and inconsiderate of others throughout the book. I can't say that was enjoyable, particularly as his moments of supposed self awareness still taught him so little about the events in his life and his *real* culpability, his *real* sins.
The story of the people around him and the land and history during which the story took place are well-crafted and very interesting. Still worth a listen, but not remotely as uplifting as I had hoped or expected.
I am stunned by the rave reviews this book is receiving. There are scores of books of this genre that are of the same vein, but much more skillfully rendered. Some issues:
1) The characters are two-dimensional. You never really understand who they are or what drives them. What do they value? What do they believe in? What personality characteristics do they have that make them unique? We have a litany of cookie-cutter characters in this book that seem at best derivative of numerous other fantasy novels, without understanding what made those characters ones that you'd want to copy.
2) The writing lacks nuance and depth. In a GOOD book, you learn about who characters are and their relationships with one another through the ACTION of the story. You watch them grow, you observe them change. In Eragorn, we are simply TOLD things: after talking through their special connection for a relatively short amount of time, we are TOLD that two main characters know each other better than anyone else. Yet later in the book, they clash in ways that seem to demonstrate that they don't really know each other at all. The author seems to just want to take the easy road and make sure you know who the baddies are and who the best buddies are. But through plot exposition, only simple declarative sentences.
3) Characters in the book that make philosophical statements do so bluntly, in ways that make them sound as if they are reading out of a book of cliches. Again, as if the author drew from other novels without undestanding the true underpinnings of what he wrote.
4) Finally, on the audiobook, the narrator didn't help. Eragorn sounds like a muddled simpleton much of the time, yet we are to believe that he comes up with complex thoughts occasionally that save the day. The "animals" sound like muppets with laryngitis. Very distracting.
How sad that this book is garnering such kudos (a movie?!) when better works fill the fantasy shelves of any bookstore.
I find that there are two types of Stephen King books: the really innovative and creative ones where he stretches your imagination, and then the kind of so-so ones that fill the gaps between the entries into the first group. He's SO good when he's good, and Dreamcatcher is definitely a quality entry.
One of the reviews noted that it was too slow in the beginning and that there was too much toilet humor. Well, I'm not a fan of toilet humor either, personally, but the CHARACTERS are real types of boys because of those sorts of little quips. Not all boys/men talk like that, certainly, but these guys do (or did, as much of it happened in childhood and you experience it in flashbacks or you hear them smiling back at the old, silly expressions they used to use). And as for being slow in the beginning, it's fairly painstaking character development. But it is your interest in this group of friends that is paramount to your continuing interest in the story, so it is necessary. And more than that, for those of us that like character-driven fiction (although there's plenty of plot here for the plot-driven fiction folks, too, although you need to get an hour or two in), it's enjoyable as well.
This was my first audiobook and I'm worried that I've been spoiled! A good way to start.
Report Inappropriate Content