Category Archives: Literature

A Tale For The Time Being – by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Oseki
Viking Adult; First Printing edition (March 12, 2013)

From the author’s website:

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

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My Review

Zen Buddhism, Japanese culture, WWI, suicide, and the meaning of honor arrive in a Hello Kitty lunch box containing a diary, some letters, and an old watch. Ruth, an author who is struggling with writing her memoir and haunted by the recent death of her mother, finds herself drawn into the lives of a Japanese family through the contents of the lunch box that has washed up on the shoreline of the very rustic and remote island where she lives.

Moving from the present to the past; from the east to the west, from philosophy to quantum physics; Oseki takes her readers on a somewhat mysterious and mystical journey. This book made me laugh and it made me cry. The characters are so strongly written; I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the stories of their lives.

Overall, the story is very complex and a bit difficult to describe.  Sometimes, it is very harsh, brutal and heartbreaking. The book gives you a lot to think about as you move through its pages. One of the ideas that spoke to me is that of perspective; how you believe something is true, only to learn that you were looking at it all wrong. This is where the book shines some light through otherwise dark topics.

4 1/2 Stars

© Robin Tjernagel 2013

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A Note: With a limited amount of time for reading these days, I feel I must choose my books carefully. Sometimes, I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. There are at least three books I have started in the past two months and never finished, whose reviews won’t make it here. I have decided to only write reviews for books I like and would recommend.

http://www.ruthozeki.com/books-films/a-tale-for-the-time-being

A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME – BY WILEY CASH

A Land More Kind Than Home - by Wiley Cash

 

Published April 17, 2012, by William Morrow

About the Book

A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town.

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.

Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.

My Review

I don’t really know where to begin with this book review.  I didn’t know it is a thriller, but it is and it is mesmerizing.  I read it because I tend to like stories about small southern Appalachia towns.

As you might expect, in a small town, everyone knows everyone and not much is kept secret.  People have histories with one another, painful reminders of past events. Yet, for the most part, it is what you might imagine about what a small town is like.  There are neighborly people, working hard to raise families, children playing and getting into mischief, and a sort of slow pace to life.

It is the small storefront church with its charismatic pastor and its windows covered in old newsprint that is somewhat of a mystery, unless you are a part of the congregation.  Many people, good people, from the town attend the church.  They welcome new members.  They believe in miracles.  And they have a secret.

When Stump, Jess’s older brother, sees something he should not have, his life is in put in danger.  Jess tries to protect Stump, as he always does, but he’s not so sure he will be able to this time.  Sometimes evil disguised as benevolence is cleverer than innocent belief.  Sometimes, faith wins out over reason.

Adelaide Lyle tries to protect and care for the town’s children, and she is the one people turn to for guidance and comfort.  She brought most of them into the world, and they trust her.

The sheriff wants to keep order in his quiet town, when trouble starts to show itself in the plain light of day.  Some things can’t be kept hidden in the dark.  Secrets can be hard to keep.

It is a very exciting book, in which good fights evil.  The descriptions are so vivid, I felt like I could picture every detail, and it pulls you into the town.  The characters are so well-drawn; I sometimes talked to them, not that I could change one word that Wiley Cash wrote.  I laughed, I cried because there is a lot of heartache, and then, I had to say good-bye to Marshall and the people who lived there.

The book is riveting and I was totally absorbed in it from first page to last.  Wiley Cash is a true storyteller.

Reconstructing Amelia – by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia - by Kimberly McCreightPublished by Harper Collins 2013

About the Book

A stunning debut novel in which a single mother reconstructs her teenaged daughter’s life, sifting through her emails, texts, and social media to piece together the shocking truth about the last days of her life.

Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can’t believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who’s never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate’s faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.

Seemingly unable to cope with what she’d done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of “spontaneous” suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:

She didn’t jump.

Sifting through Amelia’s emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall’s roof that day-and why she died.

Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It’s about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

My Review

This book falls into the mystery category.  From the start, the reader knows Amelia has died, and it has been called a suicide by the authorities.  No mother wants to believe that her child has committed suicide.  And Kate does not believe that about her daughter, Amelia.

How well do parents really know their children?  Do they really know what happens in school?  I never told my parents about any of the bad things or the embarrassing times.  And Kate finds out that Amelia hasn’t shared her life with her mother, causing her to feel some parental guilt and regret.

Every teen topic seems to be covered in this book, so if you are a mother of a high school student, this story might be eye opening.

What is covered?

Autism

Bullying

Exclusive clubs

Friendship

Isolation

Jealousy

Peer Pressure

Sexuality

Social Media

I liked that the story is told in alternating voices, between Kate and Amelia.  This isn’t everyone’s favorite writing style; however, I have been intrigued by it ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that the two books are literary equals.  If you haven’t read The Poisonwood Bible, I highly recommend it!

Back to this book:  Not only is Amelia’s death a mystery, but as her mother starts to dig into her daughter’s life, she finds that her daughter has kept secrets from her – from school to a mysterious online friend.  I used to read a lot of mysteries, and this book doesn’t fail.  It is interesting and an easy read, maybe a book for the beach.  But, bring a backup, because this isn’t a book for everyone.  I’m glad I bought it when Barnes and Noble had a really good weekend sale on eBooks.  I think I would recommend borrowing it from the library.

I don’t always use a star system, but I would give this book 3 ½ stars. To me, that means it is a good read, but not a great work of literature.

The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook - by Matthew Quickby Matthew Quick
Published by Sarah Crichton Books, 2012

About the Book

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him — the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”

My Review

I can see why this book has been made into a movie, although I have yet to see it.  We save the movie theater for 3D films or big special effects – that kind of thing.  And seeing a movie before reading the book can totally spoil the book for me.  I saw “The Road” before I read the book, and then I couldn’t read the book because I couldn’t get the boy’s whiny voice out of my head. But, I digress…

One of the things I found appealing about this book, which most people might not fully appreciate, is the location.  I have lived in the general Collingswood, NJ area twice in my life.  It is a suburb of Philadelphia (where I have also lived).  I’ve never eaten at the Crystal Lake Diner, but I drive past it several times a week.  I ride my bike in Knight’s Park.  I recognize the street names.  So, even though I love reading books about exotic places, there is something fun about personally knowing the geographical references.

Location aside, I like the message of the book.  Pat believes in silver linings.  After Pat returns home from the “bad place” – a psychiatric facility; he thinks that all he needs to do is improve himself, in order to end the “apart time” from his wife Nikki.  He begins running and reading, hoping to impress her when their separation ends.

Pat’s family shelters him from some truths and “secrets” about his past and present, while he tries to find a way to work on his relationships.  His father seems to have some anger issues, while his mother is passive.  It is a family on the brink of breaking.  Pat needs a way to connect with his father.  His mother hopes that inviting Pat’s brother over to watch football will bring everyone together.  The key to a happy family is football – the Philadelphia Eagles.  I might be wrong, but coming from a family of Eagles fans; I can attest that they seem like a different breed of sports fans.  The word that comes to mind is rabid.

Pat sees a psychiatrist that seems a little unorthodox.  He is Pat’s doctor when they are in the office.  But, when it comes to football – yes, the Eagles, it is okay for them to become friends.  I’m fairly certain that this would not be allowed in real life.  It works in the book.

Before I finish up this review, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tiffany.  Pat’s best friend introduces them, hoping to fix them up.  Tiffany has some problems of her own.  Is it a good idea to try to make a love match between two people whose lives are a mess; who are both suffering with mental illness and emotional brokenness?

I don’t want to ruin the end of the story, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book.  Let’s just say that there is a little bit of a twist.  And if everything you just read makes you believe that this is a depressing book because of the heavy subject matter; don’t worry; it’s not, although there are definitely some sad moments.  There are some funny moments, too.  Remember, this is a story about hope and about silver linings.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Room – by Emma Donoghue

Room
by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2010

About the Book

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

A Little Detour – Art Imitates Life

I’m fairly certain we are all familiar with the saying:  “Art imitates life”; a principle held by Aristotle, while Oscar Wilde held that: “Life imitates art”.  In this case, I will have to uphold Aristotle’s position.  I believe Room was inspired by the darker side of life.

There are many children in our country who go missing every day.  Sadly, many of them are later found dead; however, there have been cases where the child is found years later, having been kidnapped and held in captivity. Cases like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and Shawn Hornbeck are three cases that were in the news recently enough that we know there is hope of finding a few of these missing children alive.  And just yesterday, three young women, who went missing between 2002 and 2004, have been found alive.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were just teenagers when they were abducted in Cleveland, Ohio.  Michelle Knight was 20 when she vanished.  A young 6-year-old girl, who is likely the child of Amanda Berry was also found.  Charles Ramsey, a neighbor of the kidnapper, Ariel Castro, heard screams coming from the house and went to investigate.  Amanda Berry was trying to escape, when Ramsey heard her screams, leading to the rescue of the victims.  Castro and his two brothers were all arrested as suspects in the case.

My Review

When I first started reading Room, I was a little put off by a child narrator.  As I have said before, I will give a book a good 50 to 100 pages before giving up on it.  I am glad I did.

While the story is based on the horrible subject of a teen girl being abducted and held captive for sexual purposes; there is something about it being told from the point of a 5-year-old, who knows nothing about how he came to live in Room that makes the book slightly less dark.  He, Jack, realizes that Room is where he lives and then there is Outside.  He loves Room, because his mother, Ma, shelters him and loves him and makes the best world she can for him.  Then one day, she tells Jack the truth about Room and Outside, and devises an escape plan.  No spoilers here about what happens.

You can see how there are two different perspectives regarding the circumstances that Ma and Jack live in.  She knows the painful truth about their existence, while he knows nothing but the seemingly wonderful world she has created for him.  I eventually warmed up to the idea of a child narrator, and Donoghue creates a believable voice for Jack.

In the end, I would say that I liked this book.  I didn’t love it, but not every book that isn’t great literature, should be overlooked.  If for no other reason, I would say the very thing that annoyed me in the beginning – a very unreliable child narrator – ended up being the thing I appreciated most about the book.  Room is not a flawless story, but it was a good read.

A Final Thought About the World We Live In

I grew up at a time when, at twelve-years-old, my parents let me walk ten miles with my brother and two friends, to a State Park.  Of course, we also had to walk home.  At sixteen, I rode my bicycle about thirty miles with some girlfriends to the Jersey Shore, and home again (we stayed a couple of days).  Both times, I needed my father to come pick me up on the way home, because the distance was so far.  We didn’t have cell phones then.  We had to seek out public phones.  On the way home from the park, it was a country store.  On the way home from the shore, it was a dive bar.

I walked to school from the fifth grade –about a mile walk- through the eleventh grade – a two mile walk.  (I could drive my senior year).  I grew up walking through the woods to my grandparent’s house.  I could stay out all day, roaming the neighborhood, as long as I was home in time to help with dinner.

My point is – that is not the world we live in anymore.  We live in a world where there are people who prey on our children.  If you are the parent of children, please protect them and keep them safe.  Talk to them, teach them, and make them aware of possible dangers (without making them afraid of the world), while letting them know what to do and who to go to for help if they don’t feel safe.

 

 

Life After Life – by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, 2013

About the Book

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.

My Review

I loved this book. The best comparison I might make with its premise is the movie “Ground Hog’s Day”, where Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving the day over and over, changing it a little at each recurrence as he remembers what happened the last time he lived it. So, I don’t think Atkinson’s idea is totally original; however, I enjoyed her writing style, which in this book included bits of poetry, philosophy, and a bit of Latin. This is the first book of hers I have ever read.

The story takes place during WWII England, revolving around Ursula. Ursula lives and dies many ways during this time in history, each time a little differently. She seems to carry memories, and although she isn’t exactly certain that they are real, she lives her current life as if they are true. This causes her to make different choices sometimes, thereby, changing the course of history. It asks the reader to consider the different paths one can take in life – you know when you look back and say: “What if?” Only Ursula does.

The images of the war, as it takes place in England, describe the horror of living through the long nights of bombings and the sometimes graphic descriptions of searching through the rubble for injured survivors or recovering the people who didn’t make it. These scenes are realistic, full of emotion and honesty. They are some of the most compelling parts of the book. But don’t worry, it isn’t all sad. There are parts of the book that will make you laugh.

The characters in this book are so well drawn. There is Ursula’s family, friends, and the people she works side by side with through the crisis of war. I don’t know if it is the way the English approach life or if it is patriotism during wartime, but there wasn’t anything false about the characters. They could stop for tea, they could call upon courage, and they were somewhat uplifting, doing their best in the worst of times.

There was only one little part of the book that I felt could have been edited just a bit, although I think it has a place in the plot. That is when Ursula ends up visiting with Eva Braun. Curious? Aside from that, I enjoyed the book.

I have read other reviews that complained about the ending of the book, and I do not want to spoil that by writing about it here. However, I don’t know how else Atkinson could have more perfectly brought the story to its conclusion.

The Light Between Oceans – by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans
By M.L. Stedman
Published by Scribner, 2012

The Light Between Oceans

About the Book

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

My Review

I absolutely loved this book.  Tom and his wife Isabel are living on an island, literally cut off from the rest of civilization.  They are faced with a very difficult moral decision when they find a little baby floating in a boat with a dead man, who presumably, is the father.  A woman’s sweater is also in the boat, and Isabel wants to believe that the mother might have fallen out of the boat.  So, do they keep the baby as their own or report what really happened in the log book, and send the baby back to the mainland with the next supply boat?

Even though I knew that what Tom and Isabel did was wrong, I felt totally sympathetic toward them.  Poor Isabel wanted a child so badly, and in midst of grieving, she feels God has answered her prayers.  Tom struggles with keeping the baby, named Lucy, but he sees how much it means to Isabel, as he watches her loving and caring for the infant girl.  Lucy even reaches into Tom’s heart and he is a loving father.  Isabel lives in peace with their decision, but Tom’s conscience bothers him.  He quietly wrestles with correcting the wrong.  Eventually, their secret begins to affect their relationship.

M.L. Stedman writes a story that leaves the reader struggling with the same inner conflict as the characters.  Would you, could you, keep a baby that floated up to your door, given the circumstances?  The story is emotionally moving.  The descriptions of the Australian town and the lighthouse island help the reader visualize and understand the times, and they also contribute to the plot.  It is a beautifully written story.

 

Science Fiction I’ve Been Reading – Sort Of

Life As We Knew It – by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Published 2006 by Harcourt Children’s Books

This is a young adult fiction, written in the form of a teen a girl’s diary.  A meteor hits the moon and knocks it out of its orbit, causing worldwide natural disasters – tsunami’s, earthquakes, and volcanos.  The ash blocks out the sun, an arctic winter sets in, and Miranda, her mother, and her two brothers must figure out how to survive.

Fortunately, Miranda’s family has a wood stove and some stock-piled food, but there is no electricity.  Injuries or illness can be fatal.  But, Miranda and her family never give up hope, even though there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe they will have a future.   I would definitely recommend this for a young adult.  The story keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

 

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi (2005)  Won a Hugo Award for Best Novel 2006
Published in 2007 by Tor Books

Imagine being 75-years-old and you are given the opportunity to be young again.  Would you do it?  Would you want to?  There is a catch.  You must join the army.  Not just any army, but one in outer space.  You are never allowed to return to Earth.  For all intent and purposes, you are considered dead.

Humanity has made it into space, where they must fight alien races for planets that are habitable.  The old people who have signed up for the army really are made young again, and they have super human strength, endurance and speed.  The first thing they all do is go crazy having as much sex as they possibly can with one another.  Then boot camp started.  That’s where I stopped reading.

In spite of the praise for this book, and its Hugo Award, I gave up about half way through it.  I don’t believe in wasting my time with a book if I don’t like it by the time I get that far.

 

Finch – Jeff VanderMeer
Published in 2009 by Underland Press
First Published by Tor Books in 2006

This book is a science fiction, detective story, mystery, and fantasy.  In a world known as Ambergris, gray caps have risen from the earth and now control the human race.  At the beginning of the story, Finch is called upon as a detective to solve two murders.

The world in this book is a strange one, covered in fungus and it is very wet and gross.  People are drugged, kept in camps, and live under martial law; subject to being terrorized by the gray caps at any moment.  While Finch is trying to solve the murders, he must contact the rebels, who seem to be led by the mysterious Blue Lady.

I liked the character of Finch and his neighbor Rathven, who I am sure, plays a big part in the story, but I did not finish the book.  I borrowed it from the library, so I might check it out again.  But, Barnes and Noble had a big sale this past weekend – 50% off – and I bought six books, which I wanted to start reading right away.

P.S.  I have read two non-Science Fiction books, that I loved, and I will write reviews of them soon:  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, and The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.

The Art of Reading

For as long as I can remember, I have loved books. And while I enjoy non-fiction , biographies, and other types of books; here I am speaking about fiction, which by definition is something invented by the imagination – an invented story.

When I was younger, I carried a book everywhere. I would read while I walked. I hid books in my school desk and read. I would hide a book under the dinner table. I would take a flashlight to bed. Often, I read more than one book at a time. I still do. And I still carry a book with me almost everywhere I go – only now it is usually my e-reader (it has a backlight – no flashlight needed).

Before I could read, I would memorize the words to the children’s stories my parents read to me. Then I could sit with the book and pretend to read it. The first book I remember memorizing was “Little Red Riding Hood.” I could picture myself as the little girl in the red cloak, taking a basket through the woods to her grandmother and the dangerous wolf that threatened their lives.

That is the way of books. Books bring you into a life that is not your own. You get to live out experiences that are not your own. You can identify with the characters, or maybe despise them, but they become real, even though they only live within the pages of the book. You can travel to exotic places you might never see, and imagine what it must be like You might even learn to think differently because books can broaden your horizons, when you truly immerse yourself in them.

When reading a book, I am not looking for a page-turner that is a fast-paced thriller, although I have read my share of those. I am looking for a book that broaches themes; that makes me contemplate what I might do if faced with the same moral or ethical conundrum as the character.

A truly good book is well-written. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph – each gesture and all of the dialogue, is carefully chosen and constructed. It has meaning. It makes me reflect about what the author is saying; what the author is trying to convey – whether it is about love and loss, about good and evil, or about life and death. It can take you into the past or forward into the future; to worlds that don’t even exist. A book has no boundaries to where it might take you. All you have to do is open the cover to begin the art of reading.
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© Robin Tjernagel
Real Life and Life Imagined
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Gone Girl – by Gillian Flynn

Have you ever been in a dating relationship that is very new and you want to make a good impression, so you pretend a little?  You might not even realize you are pretending, but you are an improved version of yourself around that person.  Supposedly – in the real world as opposed to the literary one – you can keep up that pretense for approximately two years, but eventually the real you surfaces.

Have you ever been in a long-term relationship that is very familiar and you start to take things for granted; start to take the other person for granted?  Have you ever heard the expression:  Familiarity breeds contempt?  Sometimes, when the pretense of the new relationship falls away, people find they don’t really like the person who has emerged – whether it is who they have become in the relationship or whether it is who the other person has revealed him or herself to be.

Gone Girl explores the relationship of Nick and Amy from newly dating to their five-year wedding anniversary.  That is when Amy disappears and Nick is the number one suspect in what looks like murder.

About the Book

Marriage can be a real killer. One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn, takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. As The Washington Post proclaimed, her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit with deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Employing her trademark razor-sharp writing and assured psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

My Review

The book is a psychological thriller.  The plot is riveting and when it seems like you have figured it out, it takes an unexpected turn.  Gillian Flynn takes a seemingly ordinary couple in an ordinary marriage and turns normal on its head.

  • From the newness of a dating relationship to the familiarity of a marital relationship, nothing is as it seems.
  • There is deception at every turn.
  • Sociopathic (or is that psychopathic?) manipulation is taken to unimaginable extremes.
  • Dark suspense.
  • Chilling.
  • TWISTED!

I couldn’t put the book down, even when I was appalled by the characters – by both their behavior and by who they are as people.  The characters aren’t likeable.  I was annoyed with the book a good bit of the time, especially the first half of the story.  And yet, I couldn’t walk away.   I kept coming back for more until I came to the very last page, which left me laughing and pulling my hair out.  The ending is a bit outrageous.  Let me repeat the last point of my bullet list – TWISTED!  If this couple was real, I wouldn’t want them for neighbors.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though I have mixed feelings about it because it is so dark.  I wanted to love it and I had high expectations.  The book is wildly popular, with rave reviews, and the wait list at the library is months long, so I bought the e-book.  I have to admit that the plot is clever and the characters are smartly written.  Overall, it is an imaginative story.  Flynn manipulates the reader pretty brilliantly as she takes you on a journey to find out the truth about Nick and Amy.  If you like a good suspense thriller, this might be the book for you.

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© Robin Tjernagel
Crime and Literature
Real Life and Life Imagined
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Author’s Website:  http://gillian-flynn.com/