Friday, October 27, 2006

Book Reviews

While at Disney, I read Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. It was profound and the story line kept me awake nights, thinking about what I would have done had this occurred in my life or in that of someone close to me.

The premise of the story is that a young couple are expecting their first baby - which ends up being born during a freak snowstorm, and the dad, who is a doctor, has to make the delivery in his office with a trusted nurse there to help, as opposed to getting to the hospital. Well, surprise, surprise, there is not one baby but two in there. A boy is born first, and he is perfect and wonderful, but then a girl is born with Down's Syndrome - and this is taking place in the time when children with Down's did not live long as they were thought to be too retarded to even take home or really even provide care for. The doctor makes a split-second decision about the baby girl which changes everyone's lives forever. The book is about their lives for 25 years following the births, and how his one decision affected everything in their world.

It would be so easy for the author to have taken sides, and convinced us that any one of the characters was making really bad choices and decisions, but instead she is able to provide readers with insight and understanding in to each character's personality and psyche enough that we end up seeing all these people for what they are -- good people at heart, but faced with impossibly difficult situations and emotions that they just don't know how to handle.

I highly recommend the book, it's a fairly fast read but it stays with you for a while.

Another book I read (on the way back - Memory Keeper's Daughter was on the way down) was The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall. This one was quirky and very strange! It's the story of Edgar, a young boy whose head was crushed when he was 7, by a mail truck running over it. The ground was soft enough, though, that he ended up making a miraculous recovery (thus the title), and the book is a cross between his "autobiography" and a story he is telling. He alternates between using first person and third to tell the story, sometimes switching voices several times in one paragraph. It's a bit disconcerting at times but you eventually get used to it. The book tracks him from the age of 7 until he is an adult, and his life is, well, just weird. I read it for a new book club I am considering joining - this will be the first meeting I have with them, and I am curious to see what others think of the book. I liked it, I really did, but it is, pardon my repetition, weird!

This new book club I am maybe joining is a serious book club - which is a bit of a change for me, as my regular neighborhood book club is much more focused on social aspects of meeting, rather than literary. This new group actually has three books assigned for the November meeting. Yes, three.

Edgar Mint was the first one I read. Now I am working on Obsessive Genius, by Barbara Goldsmith. It's a biography of Marie Curie, and I am really, really enjoying it. (I have a picture of the book cover but blogger won't upload it ....) I am not finished yet, but it is a fascinating look at the life of this incredible woman. I admit to being quite ignorant about her and all she accomplished in her life. Goldsmith states in her foreward that her goal with this book is to show the human side of the scientist, and portray Marie Curie as a real and whole person. Her writing is masterful - she fills many pages with detailed scientific descriptions of the work Marie & Pierre Curie did, but it somehow doesn't get too dry for me (a non-scientific reader!) I had always known Marie Curie was a pioneer in the world of women in science, but I did not understand just to what extent she was shut out, judged, and mistreated because of her gender. I also did not understand what an astonishing feat it was for her to be the first (and actually a few years later she was the second, too -- and the third was her daughter) woman awarded a Nobel prize.

One of my favorite passages is the reporting of a discussion between Marie and Pierre after they have discovered radium and are exploring the power of radioactivity, and they are talking about how best to control its release to the world. They are very aware of the power accompanying the control of radiation, and fear the havoc that could emerge if the wrong people gained control. Since I am often so cynical about so many things, I loved learning that here were scientists ready to discuss and ponder the right and wrong ways to use their discoveries, and make plans to try and ensure proper use and development of their world-changing experiments. I can only hope that today's scientists have somewhat the same conscience and are not always only ruled over by the almighty dollar. (Even Pierre and Marie did, however, even back then, make many decisions based on who would pay their way. Somethings, I guess, never do change.)

Finally, I am also reading Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld (and that's a female Curtis, BTW) the story of a young girl from Indiana who ends up at an elite boarding prep school in The East. It's really not that great. The story is somewhat predictable, although actually I am impressed that the author is not going for cheap thrills or gags and is not exaggerating the story to make outlandish points. She doesn't do that so much, though, that the book is rather boring. Last night I was tired so I skipped to the last 3 pages to see what happens at the end, and now doubt that I will actually finish reading the third of the book that I jumped over. Ho-hum.


Mark and Carla said...

OK I"m clearly going to have to my own book run on my blog but I have to weigh on Memory Keeper's Daughter as being the kind of book I can't stand--a book that has "ooh, this book will appeal to all those women in book clubs who will feel the angst and pain of this contrived situation that I've designed to tear at their heartstrings."

I don't doubt that this situation was painful for the characters, but I was 1/2 way through it and going "eh, I'm not sure I care about these people". I feel that way about books by Anita Shreve and Jodi Piccolout, too, both authors that many women love.

Of course, that's just my opinion on YOUR blog. Forgive me.

A Peterson Family Member said...

LOL - you are certainly allowed YOUR opinion on MY blog. I don't like Jodi Piccault, either (Anita Shreve some I love some are eh)

Just think how boring the world would be if we all had the same opinions about everything ...