Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In Which I Finally Finish an Adult Book

Nellie Olsen and The Round House
photo by me

"In order to purify yourself, you have to understand yourself, Father Travis went on.  Everything out in the world is also in you.  Good, bad, evil, perfection, death, everything.  So we study our souls."

One would think with all the rain we've had this Spring here in Piedmont NC, I would have finished reading more than one adult book in the last month.  Not so much, and honestly, I have no freaking clue what I've been doing, certainly not mowing my lawn or cleaning my house.    Anyway,  today I read the last page of The Round House by Louise Erdrich.    This was my first Erdrich novel, although a friend recommended and lent me The Master Butchers Singing Club, which I started but had to abandon because I couldn't read the font.  I love getting old. 

Describing The Round House is not easy.  It is a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and historical fiction all rolled into one character and plot-driven novel.    I loved the narrator's voice; it reminded me of the John Boy Walton voice-overs at the end of every Waltons episode.  And while I found the Native belief-system stories and mythological histories interesting, sometimes they interrupted the plot flow and felt artificially inserted for only the purpose of disseminating them.  The plot points bringing to light the common-place and unpunished abuses of Native women and the purposefully convoluted, specious court system that is Native law were infuriating.  And at the same time, the escapades of the teen boys at the center of the plot, while sometimes crude and a bit over-the-top, were also often very funny.  I certainly did not see where the plot was going and am still a bit unnerved by it, but I'm glad I read the book and plan to read more of her work in the future.

Erdrich nails the deep, often hidden and hard to name parts of human nature in the quotidian evil of the Larks, the Atticus Finch-like honor of Joe's judge father, the Native-hating governor who surreptitiously and immorally impregnates a Native girl, and in the searching, unorthodox compassion of Father Travis.   She covers huge moral questions like the problem of pain and its partial answer of free will, the question of how much we are or are not our brother's keeper, as well as the central conflict of vengeance versus justice and how far we can go to right wrongs without destroying ourselves in the process.  This book gave me a lot to ponder, and I'm sure as soon as I post this, I'll think of something else I'd like to say.   In the meantime, happy reading to you all.  I'm headed back to Italy to finish Beautiful Ruins.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Just For Fun

Cartwheels in the Sand
photo by me

For the last month, I have been reading purely for entertainment.  I haven't blogged about the books I've been reading, I suppose, because I thought they lacked the proper gravitas for reflection.  But as I consider this idea, I think maybe I have been wrong.  Sometimes, life is so stressful and overwhelming, and it seems like every day is full of decisions that are full of portent and promise or disappointment that we need to escape.  We need to see ourselves in another place, another time, another world, even.  Being a lover of books, to me, doesn't just mean loving the books that "matter."  Sometimes it means loving the books that matter right then, the books that save you, every day, from the stress and ennui and overwhelming reality of life. 

The first "just for fun" book I read was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  I loved the mystery of this book at first.  The plot wore a little thin for me as the book went on, but it was entertaining and well-written for a YA fantasy novel.  I bought the second book and started it, but I'm not sure I'll stick with it.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone would be a great beach read.

After a YA fantasy, I switched to a YA (maybe a littel too much) reality in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Eleanor and Park is also well-written, and I guess true to life for some people.  I don't know how realistic either character really is, but I enjoyed reading the book, even though the ending was very abrupt.  It's not a pick-me-up kind of book.

After these two, I entered the land of "WTH am I going to read now?" and started several books without finishing anything yet.  I started Beautiful Ruins by Jess  Walter and The Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin, but now I've found The Round House by Louise Erdrich on my library's 14 Day Shelf and started it.  And I am still limping along on Les Miserable; I think it's going to take me all year.  I need a beach trip...a very long beach trip.  Happy Summer Reading!