A really engaging memoir of the author's years in the FLDS church and her participation in a plural marriage with a prominent older member of the church. It's amazing to think of all the insular sub-cultures in the US, and how different the world seems to them than it does to outsiders. At times the story seemed a bit sensationalized, and at other times as though the author was letting her therapist tell the story rather than telling it herself, as the self she was when she experienced her time in the FLDS and her departure from it. Rightly or wrongly, I assigned all this to her co-author. Still, I was left with the unsettled feeling that Carolyn Jessop's experience hovers ambiguously between two extremely different accounts of it: the one the FLDS would tell, and the one that Jessop's "rescuers" in the larger American culture would tell. For me, that was the whole point of it, how dramatically your own experiences can shift underneath you depending on what framework you use to interpret them. I was left wondering where Jessop would be now, and how she would think about her life, if the FLDS's leadership hadn't gotten so freaky.
I sort of worship at the altar of David Mitchell, so of course I loved this book. He is simply a masterful writer. And the narrators were all quite good. But the narration was nevertheless a major problem for me. The character around whom the book is structured is Holly Sykes, who we meet in her own voice in the first and last decades of her life. In the other episodes, someone else's story is told, though Holly Sykes is always a character in their stories. It makes sense to have different narrators for different episodes, since many of the stories are told by other characters. The problem is that Holly absolutely comes alive in the first episode: beautifully narrated and wonderfully written. In all the later episodes, she is incredibly flat. I kept looking for some sign of her individuality and her humanity, but really never saw it. So either David Mitchell has not successfully drawn an engaging portrait of Holly through the various decades of her life (quite possible), or I just couldn't get past the fact that when Holly talked in all the later episodes, she had a different voice and thus was not herself, making it difficult for me to connect her to the girl I met in the first episode. So now, after having invested many many hours in listening to the audiobook, I have to buy the book and read it if I want to decide whether or not David Mitchell really is all that. A lot is at stake here! I've been telling everyone I know that he's the best writer of his generation in the English language, and if he's written a crappy central character, I have to stop saying that! Or else he has to let me edit his next novel before it goes to press. Everybody needs an editor or twelve or twenty.
The book had its moments, good and bad. But I never could decide if it was the book that was frustrating me, or merely the narrator, who was simply ghastly. Her voice was grating, especially when she tried to read children's voices. Worse still, when she read grown women's voices, they talked like children too, which was beyond annoying. The southern accents blew in and out, not at all consistent. I kept trying to hear through the narrator to get the author's voice, an exhausting and completely unrewarding task when you're just trying to get a small slice of entertainment and/or insight in your day.
How good was this? Really, really good! Ebershoff is a wonderful writer who absolutely gets inside the head of a wide range of characters. If you're looking for a romping fast read, this might not be for you, but the interweaving of the two stories--one from the early days of the LDS, one in the present, involving a splinter group of the LDS--is well done and keeps you coming back to see what develops. The historical detail is beautiful, and Ebershoff balances religious tolerance and sound moral judgment admirably well.
I am a huge lover of all things Greek, and I had read Sue Monk Kidd's _Dance of the Dissident Daughter_ (actually assigned it to a class) and found it very intriguing. And as a 50-something woman with young daughters, it all seemed like the perfect read was about to come my way. But honestly, it as too navel-gazing for my tastes. I don't know what it would be like going around in the world waiting for signs and portents meant just for you, but to me it just seems narcissistic. Oddly, I found the daughter's story far more compelling than the mom's.
I can imagine that this wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it was mine. Really delightful. Slow pace, but involving and thoughtful.
The main character is not likable, and I never could decide whether or not Pamuk wanted us to like him, which is part of what made the book so hypnotic. It's rare that you get a beautifully drawn character that sits on a razor edge of moral culpability without easily tumbling to either side. I think that's what I liked most.
And of course . . . there was John Lee. He is amazing. I listen to books just because he's the narrator. He somehow manages to avoid sounding pedantic when trying to get accents and pronunciations just so, which is a tricky thing to do.
I stuck with this book all the way through, but it really was a 1950s Queen-for-a-Day sobfest. Oddly, it didn't succeed in getting me to sob along with his characters, even though I'm a pretty light touch, probably because the characters weren't very well drawn. We know he CAN create good characters, because he has in other books and because there were several secondary characters in this book that were compelling. But the main characters either never jelled, or maybe I just never liked them. By the end, I was happy to see them suffer because I was tired of them and wanted them to go away.
Such a great book! Everyone is so believable, and so flawed, yet so sympathetic. The author is terrific at bringing the reader inside the head of someone who experiences his world so differently from the rest of us.
Lots of thought-provoking info in this book, though I found the author's pomposity kind of grating. Still, it's a cheap way to get a really stimulating undergraduate psychology course.
I started this book with the vague sense that Faludi was right, that gender politics had been engaged in some retro ways in the American reaction to 9/11, but that she was probably way overstating it. Faludi convinced me otherwise! She's a terrific, very cogent and clear writer who does her research thoroughly. In fact, I had the same experience when I read Backlash, years ago, feeling like she was only a little right, and then reading it and being utterly persuaded.
Faludi goes into a lot of deeper American history to try to elucidate the story that the media applied so readily to the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. It's all interesting, but some of it is less than productive to her main thesis, and ends up being a bit tangential. But when she's treating major episodes of 9/11-related coverage, such as that of the "rescue" of American soldier Jessica Lynch, she is simply brilliant.
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