In the 2d half of my 40s, I've been on a kick to read as many prized literary novels as I can. I've been particularly interested in reading such novels set in the South. This novel, set in Tennessee, won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It has caused me to question whether I should do a cost-benefit analysis before reading certain prized novels.
In my literary endeavor, many times I've enjoyed what I've read and some novels have required hard work and a second reading to appreciate (e.g., The Sound and the Fury). And, then there have been a couple like A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, that made me wonder why I should force myself to experience a story of an event and aftermath so painful to endure in reality, a story that nearly all of us suffer through at least a few times in our life if we are lucky enough to make it to middle age. This novel, as you can tell from the title, is a story of a rural family dealing with the death of the father and husband and brother and son to the respective surviving family members.
I have had a hard enough time surviving the painful ordeal of the death of an immediate family member. While I can appreciate the literary quality of this novel, I've come to the conclusion that life is just too short and my reading time too limited to spend hours and hours of my time vicariously living through such intimate agony and sadness at and as the story's very center.
In her debut psychological thriller revolving around Evie, a young newspaper reporter, set in Toronto from 1982 to 1993, Elisabeth de Mariaffi deftly plies her wares at suspense with the uncertainty of childhood memories, lingering nightmares and possible paranoia from a 12-year-old friend's abduction and murder, cults in the Branch Davidians in Waco and the Charles Manson murders, stalkers, paranoia, dental records, a *basement* and a *cabin in the woods*.
I expect Ms. de Mariaffi to excel in this genre with such a good start and look forward to her next book.
As always, Andi Arndt magnificently plays the role of the young, equivocal female protagonist. For my money, Ms. Arndt is the *bomb* among her female counterparts.
This book provides momentary stardust to the guy who feels like he's failed, his hopes dashed; the lady who thinks her life is a disappointment in an empty nest or that she didn't live up to her potential in her career; or anyone else who believes her or his road to money and glory has been forever blocked or even decimated.
This book was published in 2006, written by Rabbi Harold Kushner, also the author of the bestseller "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Whereas the latter was so helpful to those who, like Rabbi Kushner, lost a loved one, this book is manna, like grains of gratitude for seeing and grasping all that it good within your life, even when it seems that all has gone so wrong. "Overcoming" is the book that others have since tried to write, like "The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success."
This is not an overly religious book or a book only for Jews because it's written by a Rabbi. This is a spiritual book, a positive book, that invokes the life and failures of Moses for its lessons.
If you know someone who has suffered a major life setback, lost a job, a house, a marriage, I cannot recommend to you highly enough that you give this book as a gift.
As with some literary historical fiction, I was skeptical when I started this book. I even went so far as to return it before hearing more and more praise. So I stuck it out for a couple of hours, and, boy oh boy was it worth it! A novel with themes of love and self-sacrifice and humanity in the face of greater evils.
Somerset Maugham said it best in THE RAZOR'S EDGE (another novel centered in France): "... self-sacrifice is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn't matter; it may be worthwhile or it may be worthless. No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is [or believes himself to be] greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son."
So, O Fellow Impatient Ones, stay with this for 2 hours, and you will be satisfied once you've finished.
The best book of 2014. Bar none.
I feel obliged to issue a WARNING re: the HUGE PLOT SPOILER for the 1st in the trilogy, Iréne (in the description of this book, Alex, the 2d in the Verhoeven trilogy).
For whatever reason, this 2d book was apparently translated and published in the USA before the the 1st in the trilogy:
I wrote a review of Iréne, which is much better than the 2d.
But, Iréne is so good that you must read Alex and then Camille (coming to the States soon).
With the proviso, I recommend this book as a 3.5 star.
First, a Warning: Do NOT read Alex (the 2d in the Verhoeven trilogy, but the first translated and published in the States) before reading this, or even the publisher's Irene-spoiler description of *Alex*. Regretfully, I did; else this review would be longer.
*Irene* is a hyper-intelligent, noir, (quasi-meta) thriller with a quite original (and short) protagonist Commandant.
Second Warning: This novel is not for the weak of stomach or heart.
I like the later Harry Bosch novels, but this one evinces a Connelly initially trying to find his way to a good story that's also plausible. The Concrete Blonde is as realistic, from the standpoint of the centerpiece lawsuit, as a Calvin P Yeen on a Cowboy helmet in downtown Dallas.
Dick Hill's thick Chicago accent grates the whole way through, especially when he attempts the female voices and even moreso when he puts his hand over the mike to try to give the effect of someone speaking from the other end of a phone call. Think, Mike Ditka narrating it to you in the passenger seat while he munches a super-size bag of Doritos.
This novel was a nice, different take on the post-apocalypse. Nothing profound or revelatory. If we had half-stars, I'd give it 3.5 stars.
Many times I'll buy a collection of short stories and read/listen to 3, one of which is good and the others afflicted by such eccentricities and affectations that I cannot get past the thought (which seems confirmed by research on the writer) that these are foibles foisted on the writer by one MFA program or another, or by trying too hard to come up with a ingenious story.
While I believe Mr. Klay has an MFA in creative writing, his writing is true and powerful because, it seems to me, he writes what he knows and what he knows has struck him in a way that he cannot help but write stories from the heart that are genuine and profound.
I highly recommend these stories, each of which moved me.
This book kept me interested, with a decent plot line, though a little disjointed, and a believable set of psychotic villains, though I thought shortcuts were taken to arrive at the climax, which itself seemed forced to the point of being affectatious. All in all, a good, not great, thriller.
I hope Mr. Koryta brings back such superbly drawn evildoers (or some like the ones here) and put them in a grander story with a little more work on the protagonists.
The villains gave Mr. Petkoff a chance to shine, so I give him 5 stars.
This is a near-flawless book in measuring, in an erudite yet conversational manner, the near-majesty of a man who played a leading role (arguably the leading part) in maintaining the course of the free world and altering evil in the 20th Century. I was hesitant, but Mr. Johnson was able to draw me into his scholarly chat, unlike the historians who can cure any insomniac.
I highly recommend this audiobook.
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