Book Review: “Father’s Day” by Simon Van Booy

Apr 26, 2016 by

Book Review: "Father's Day" by Simon Van BooyHarvey’s parents die in a tragic car accident when she is six years old.  Suddenly orphaned, the social worker finds the only living relative Harvey has left – her uncle Jason.  Jason has been long estranged from his family due mainly to his criminal record, and wasn’t even aware than his younger brother had a child… much less that his brother was gone now too.   The social worker sees something in Jason though, and helps him find his way to taking care of Harvey.  Fast forward twenty years, and Jason is visiting Harvey in Paris, where she lives and works now.  Harvey has put together a Father’s Day present for Jason during his visit, and plans to unveil the secret she thinks he’s been hiding from her.

I hadn’t read Van Booy before now, but I see why so many people love him so much.  This book was beautiful and careful with emotions and wonderful.  It took me a chapter or two to become completely enraptured with this story.

Harvey and Jason have much to offer and teach each other, but it’s far more than that.  There is a lot of love here, and it mostly starts with the opportunity for second chances.  The relationships that come out of these second chances are amazing.  Some take some time and effort, but what doesn’t?  I loved how the narrative moved so seamlessly between past and present.  It worked so well, and I especially liked how each perspective or memory was offered to the reader.  Its truly beautiful.

I strongly recommend this to readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy redemption stories.

*****
Father’s Day

by Simon Van Booy
Harper, 2016
304 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours
*****

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Book Review: “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

Jul 26, 2012 by

Reading Mrs. Dalloway involved learning a lesson that I didn’t expect.  I went into it flippantly, even though I had been warned that Virginia Woolf was difficult.  But I have read authors that some consider difficult and made it through…  I thought I knew more than I did.  I mean, it is a small book, and I assumed it would be a quick read no matter what.  I knew some people loved Woolf, and I hoped I would find an enjoyable story in it.  After all, it was a day in the life of a woman planning a party… how difficult could it really be?

Yes.  I thought that.  Can you see me cringing with that admission?  I can’t believe that I tried to debase Woolf, not to mention women in general (and I am a woman!) to that level.  I am not even going to get into all the terrible things that I’m thinking about myself right now, for thinking so simply.  For not realizing the scope of what that initial assumption could mean in a general sense.  Like I said, I am a woman (though I’ll safely assume that this applies to men as well) and I am perfectly aware of how much and how often my mind wanders throughout any given day…. subject to subject, to the past, and curious wonderings about strangers I see on the street….  I guess I never expected that true mind stream of thought could be captured so eloquently on the page.

It takes some getting used to; and I certainly had a hard time with it at first.  Thankfully, I received some great advice which really helped me let loose my usual reading style and ride the stream of consciousness flow of thoughts and ideas.  (Read the post and comments linked HERE if you are interested in the discussion)  The two hardest concepts for me to wrap my head around were that there isn’t much plot and that not every little detail matters.  It also helped to read some passages aloud, so I could grasp where the point of view changed.  While this is a day in the life of Mrs. (Clarissa) Dalloway, we also see into the minds of different people in her life or at least touch her life and day and thoughts in some manner.  I’d say that the first quarter of the book is an exercise in adjusting to this literary writing style.

And this style is extraordinary.  It is innovative.  Simple and complex all at once.  You don’t have to like it or enjoy it to see and appreciate the importance of it.  I’d imagine that re-reading this would be almost necessary to pick up on the subconscious thoughts embedded in the stream of consciousness…  It is going to take me a bit before I will be able to do that though.  This was so far out of my comfort zone that I am going to need to be gentle to my mind for a bit and read something light (and with more plot!).  I am not put off by Woolf though, and I still have Orlando on my Classics Club list.  But I will be better prepared to give her and her writing a proper go from the start next time.  I should also add that an annotated edition might have been helpful in my case!

*****
Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf
Harcourt, 1998.  Originally published 1925
194 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****
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Book Review: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

May 26, 2012 by

Book Review: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran FoerIt has been two years since 9/11.  Oskar Schell is ten years old, and lost his father Thomas in the tragedy, and he is obviously still dealing with his loss.  Who wouldn’t be?  But one day, Oskar finds a key among his father’s belongings and believes it is one last mystery his father had left for him to solve.  As Oskar searches for the lock that will fit the key all over New York City, he slowly heals and allows himself to feel his grief.

I think this is the first novel I’ve read that deals specifically with the aftermath of 9/11.  I can’t believe that it has been almost 11 years since that terrible day when thinking about it, remembering still hurts so much. My heart just aches.  Oskar puts a face to just one of the stories of those directly affected – sure he is a fictionalized character, but it isn’t a tough stretch to believe in a kid who lost his father; his father who just happened to have a meeting in that building that morning.  The way that Oskar’s grief manifests itself in his personality is heartbreaking.  He is carrying so much inside of him.  His mother, his grandmother, his therapist all so their best to help…  but it is this challenge that is metaphorically and literally the key to Oskar’s grief.

A secondary story line is uncovered that involves Oskar’s Grandmother, her husband, her sister, and the thousands of lives lost in the bombing of Dresden at the time of her youth.   There is also an elderly mute man who factors into the story, and with Oskar’s as well.  I’ll admit that this subplot was confusing to me at first, then made me feel sad, and finally all out depressed.  Balancing the bombing of Dresden against the bombing of the World Trade Center (with a tangent concerning the horrors seen at the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) pushed me right past my emotional threshold.  I began to feel so much, that I finally felt hollow and spent.

For this reason, I did not enjoy reading this book at all.  Each time I went to pick the book up to continue, I did so with trepidation.  What horribly sad thing was to happen now??  The writing is awesome, the characters are more than you could hope for… and it is all so great that reading was not a likable experience for me.  I should also mention, in the interests of full disclosure, that while I was reading this book, there was a sudden death of a beloved family member.  That upended my state of emotional well-being, and I think that my opinion of this book has been affected by that as well.   In fact, I do remember finding humor in some of Oskar’s conversations and thoughts when I had first started the book…  but I lost them, after.

*****
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Mariner Books, 2006.  First published 2005.
326 pages
Source:  Borrowed from my cousin
*****
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“Scenes from Village Life” by Amos Oz

Oct 26, 2011 by

"Scenes from Village Life" by Amos OzThis is not going to be one of my typical reviews, as this is not your typical book.  Instead, within these pages you will find a novel comprised of short stories.  I have only read a book like this once before, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, though I’m sure there are more like this.

The novel showcases a single village in the Israeli countryside, Tel Ilan, from several different angles.  It is a small village, and everyone seems to know everyone else.  Their stories are interwoven with the same people, showing up in different places or even assuming the role of narrator for a story. There is also the use of repetition across stories or even within a story which may be a result of the translation, but I liked to think of it as giving a sense of multiple storytellers, or of a story often told.

Tel Ilan could be seen as a parable or analogy for small villages anywhere, as one of the main themes through the book concerns change, specifically reconstruction and modernization.  The village is one hundred years old, and is slowly being rebuilt and replaced by newer buildings.  Farming is no longer the main occupation of the villagers; instead the farms are being sold off and shops, boutiques and art galleries are being opened.  The older villagers are returning to the cities, while city residents are rushing to the village on weekends.  The different narrators offer different viewpoints on these developments and it is rather intriguing to see how they all live and work together within the village.

Amos Oz has created a quiet, though somehow haunting prose within these pages.  It is completely character driven, which is something I don’t usually enjoy.  I have never taken so long to sit and write a review before; this book is hard to write about because while I was reading it, only incomplete thoughts and phrases filled my mind.  Overall, it is impossible not to see the simple beauty within these characters.

*****
Scenes from Village Life
by Amos Oz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
192 pages
Source: ARC from publisher

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