Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Patron Recommendations

Here are three wonderful reviews by J. Strauss, a prolific reader and member of our book discussion group here at the library. Check them out!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This novel takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early years of the Civil Rights movement. The story is told by a 24-year old white woman named Skeeter and two black maids named Minnie and Aibileen. These women build a secret relationship in order to write a book that could endanger the lives of the maids and cause permanent damage to Skeeter’s reputation, social standing and future.

The characters are so richly developed that when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about them constantly. I was lost in their world and their voices were permeating my thoughts. I read this book over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a coincidence that turned out to be a gift. The holiday meant so much more to me as his work was mentioned frequently in the book and so very instrumental in changing the segregation and injustices endured by so many, during my lifetime.

Read this book! It’s so good and you will love it!

Half Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls
Half Broke Horses is true-life fiction, written about the life of the author’s maternal grandmother, Lily Case Smith. Lily was born and raised in the early 20th century American Southwest. Her family was in ranching and, aside from a couple brief attempts at city living, Lily spent her days in the wide, open spaces of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. She was a strong, gutsy and independent woman who did what was necessary to raise her family through the Depression years. Lily worked as a teacher and a rancher and was married to a good man and fellow rancher named Jim. Lily was extremely hard-working, tough and lived a colorful life.

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir about her unorthodox upbringing amidst her mother and father’s unconventional, neglectful and at times, unfit parenting styles. It is one of my all-time favorite books and I was very excited when Half Broke Horses came out so I could see what kind of environment Jeannette’s mother was raised in. The book gave me so much more insight into Jeannette’s mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, and why she was able to live and raise her family as she did. It also helps explain how Jeannette and two of her siblings were able to survive their upbringing, not only intact, but as successful and productive adults. They came from some strong stock!

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has read The Glass Castle or is interested in the history of the Southwest.

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
Deaf Sentence is a novel written about a British linguistics professor, Desmond Bates, who is in his mid-sixties and is going deaf. His hearing condition has forced him into early retirement. As a house husband, Desmond is feeling very isolated, both at home and in social settings. Additionally, he dealing with his aged father to whom he pays weekly visits and is watching slip away, both mentally and physically.

The book has a slow start as it details the mundane and depressing daily life of a man living with the challenges of severe hearing loss and aging in general. Things really start to really pick up when a young, meddlesome, female graduate student attempts to seduce Desmond into being her advisor. Throughout the story, there are some laugh-out-loud scenes, often involving Desmond’s blended family and his attempts at social interaction with his hearing impairment. A very personal encounter at the end of the story puts Desmond’s life in perspective, allowing him to appreciate what he has and really start living again.

I genuinely liked this book.

I am more informed and empathetic to the limitations, frustrations and feelings of isolation caused by hearing loss because of Desmond’s character. I would definitely recommend this book – especially to readers who have or know someone who has hearing loss.

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