Monday, March 15, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ A Lovely Challenge...

Bloggers extraordinaire, Tami & Dave, talk about their love of reading together and their thoughts on what reading inspires in them on their blog, Just One More Thing. So of course it only makes sense that they would create this great challenge designed not only to encourage you to read, but to encourage you to read with someone else. Be it a friend, spouse, child or neighbor - you should be experiencing reading with others.

It was indeed a challenge for these Bumbles to participate, since Andy's interest in reading is still growing, and we rarely read the same things. But when he gave me a certain book for Christmas, he told me that he might like to check it out himself when I was done. Hmmmm. I read that book as soon as I could so that he could have his turn and I could wrangle his thoughts out of him before the mood passed. So here you go - Andy's first ever book review, in addition to mine.

I'm not a literary critic, so my review of books is generally, "I liked it" or "I didn't like it". Would I ever re-read a book is also something I think about. I always hated it in high school when you had to look deep into the "meaning" of Romeo & Juliet, for instance. I know right off the bat if i'm going to enjoy what I am reading. Since I'm not in high school anymore I only read for myself and I would NEVER read Shakespeare. Writing a review reminds me of when the teacher in "A Christmas Story" tells her students to write a Theme and everybody groans.

As far as The Lovely Bones is concerned I probably never would have picked it up without the hype surrounding the movie recently released. Considering the book was initially published in 2002 and I hadn't heard of it until now, it's safe to assume I never would have read it.

I liked this book. It was an easy read and it was one of those books that I wanted to keep on reading. It was interesting, at least to me, that the main character was dead from the beginning of the book but it read like she wasn't dead.

As far as the other people in the book, I think the mother was the most interesting. I guess it's pretty common for parents of murdered children to drift apart due to the stress it creates on the family, but for her to just up and leave and then come back into the family was like a second plot to the book.

I would give the Lovely Bones 3.5 stars out of 5. It's hard to say a book about a teenage girl getting raped & murdered was enjoyable but the real story is about the effect it had on her family and friends and I thought it was an interesting story.

I struggle to rate this book. There are parts that are just so vibrant and original. And there are parts that seem to try too hard - or needed better editing. Like many of the reviews I have read, the first half is favored and the second half brings me back down to earth (pun intended).

Upon finishing this book go back and read the preface - that brief little memory of the penguin in the snow globe. It sums up what I feel the narrator, Susie Salmon's, difficult lesson of life is. That it is possible to be trapped by things that you thought made you happy and to be alive when you are able to feel pain.

Susie you see, was raped, murdered, chopped up into pieces and disposed of as a teenager. That is not a spoiler. It is revealed in the opening pages and is the basis for all that comes afterward. She narrates her story from her heaven while her murderer survives next door to her shattered family. Her heaven is filled with all things that she desires, magically there as her whims come and go. But what she desires most - to be alive with her family and friends - is not possible any more. So she is trapped in a perfect world surrounded by things that make her happy. And the people who care for her are finding a way to live through the roller coaster of feelings that cause so much pain.

This is a book of lessons about living. About surviving. About hope and dreams. And it is told through a tale of death, violence and despair. Quite amazing really.

The story seemed to lose some steam once the first anniversary of Susie's disappearance has passed. It began to be more scattered and less in your face with strong emotions and actions. I suspect that is probably true in the real world of mourning someone who has been taken away without closure. But in the story line the writing seemed to suffer for it. The phrase - "it was then that I saw/heard/noticed/felt..." became overused and annoying. Details that had been so tidy before now seemed to be glossed over. It felt rather sloppy. Every time the author had written a perfect sentence to sum up the overall story I thought I had reached the end. And then I would turn the page to see there were still more pages. I'm not sure she knew how to disconnect herself from the story - much like Susie.

There were some plot directions - with Susie's mother, and with Susie's brief "return" - that may be criticized or disliked, but I think they are probably just misunderstood. I came to understand Susie's mother's evolution. What appeared to be poor choices weren't really things she was capable of deciding. She fled to survive. And then with time as a catalyst she was able to see that sometimes you have to embrace your fears to conquer them. Lucky for her she had an unrealistically supportive family. As for Susie's "return"...I think the author needed to give her narrator something good. A piece of the healing process that all victims of violence deserve and often never get. I saw it as something beautiful for her to be able to do. And since the author was a rape survivor, I'm sure the writing of these passages held special meaning.

As the book wound down, it became evident that the author believes that closure doesn't necessarily come from a body - but from the soul. And I thought her use of the icicle as a perfect murder weapon to be clever and it made me smile. Something that didn't happen often in a tale like this. But knowing Susie existed on some level made the tragedy uplifting rather than heart wrenching. 4 stars out of 5.


So there you have it. In case you couldn't tell, Andy wasn't thrilled to write any review. I forced it out of him. He likes to read, process and move on. I like to read, process and dwell! But I found it interesting that we both enjoyed the book, found interest rather than anger with the mother, and look forward to sharing this book again, when we watch the movie in the future. Thanks Tami & Dave for sponsoring this challenge to bring us all together through books.


Heather G. said...

you're so good to get your hubby reading and reviewing! Love it!

soleil said...

I loved this book. I am with you about Susie's 'return' at the end. It didn't bother me at all. I was glad Susie was able to have one last moment on earth before she moved on from limbo to heaven. I felt ambivalent about the mother. I thought it was interesting that it was the mother who couldn't cope and ran off and not the father.
That's so cool that you and your husband are reading together. Mine is just now getting into reading and he is starting to read some of my old favorites.
My childhood best friend and I started a two person book club a few months ago. We take turns picking a book, we both read it, then we discuss it. We go at a very lackadaisical pace so we don't feel any pressure and it keeps it fun. I am loving it.
It is rewarding to read on one's own, but there is something so satisfying about sharing the experience. Mainly, because you can discuss. :) :) :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Hey I give you points. My husband won't come within ten feet of my computer or any resemblance of a review. I found the book to be sorta like a bad traffic accident...disturbing, but oddly attractive, forcing you to keep looking. Having kids may have something to do with that. I don't like to have to think about little girls being raped and murdered and chopped up, and then talking about the experience. But at the end of the day, I did like the book. The movie? It was OK. They took some poetic license with the plot, which ticks me off. But it was well-directed. Nice job you two!

Penny said...

ooo This looks fun! Thanks for sharing it :)

kayerj said...

how fun that you read it together. Mr. J and I read Dan Brown, and Tom Clancy together. I did get him to listen to LOTR once when we went to Yellowstone. 72 hours of listening pleasure :)

I love both of your reviews and especially your remarks about the soul and how existing on another level eases the tragedy. Well done!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oh that is fun! I wish my husband would read and discuss books with me. He is not a reader. Loved the review and the opinions!

Anonymous said...

I listened to this on cd and really liked it. I gave the actual book to my mom and she wasn't as crazy about it. Maybe if you have a daughter it's harder to read.
Nice reviews, Bumbles! Andy's was great, especially considering it was his first. Molly's was great too, but we all expect that :)

Margot said...

Andy: your review was perfect. You gave me all the info necessary. Please do it again - some time this year, that is.

Tami said...

We're so excited that you read and reviewed together. And thanks for the plug for our blog. Reading together is still relatively new for us, but we're having a lot of fun with it. We may have to add this book to our TBRT (to be read together) list.

Forgetfulone said...

I skipped a little bit of the last review because it seemed to go into more detail, and since I'm still reading, I didn't want to know too much about the plot. I enjoyed this post, though. I would never have picked up the book if it weren't for the movie hype, either. And it looks like I won't see the movie, becaues the book is always better, and this one's not really that great in book form. So... we'll see. The librarian where I work highly recommended this book, so I will wait till the end to give my final verdict.

Kathleen said...

The Lovely Bones was the first book my book club read together in 2002. And there was so much controversy about the book! One of our members had lost a sister to drowning and she just couldn't bear the book and it caused lots of drama during our first club meeting! I will never forget this book! I actually have been meaning to re-read it so I can just enjoy it without the dramatic discussions afterward making me feel a bit "crazy" about the whole thing!