Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Saturday by Ian McEvan - Fiction

Saturday by Ian McEwan is a thrilling story that spans a full winter Saturday in the heart of London, England. The main character, Henry Perowne, is not only a distinguished neurosurgeon but is happily married to a successful newspaper lawyer, with two children who are now adults, moving in and out of their lives as these children explore their future lifestyles. There is happiness and contentment in this family life. 

The author weaves in and out of various characters as they impact the lives of the Perownes. On this Saturday morning the main character encounters a very unpleasant interaction while he was driving through the streets of London avoiding the marching protesters decrying the imminent Iraq war involvement. The story unravels as this one incident becomes a constant thorn on the sides of the Perowne family.  Eventually, Henry Perowne is struggling to save his family from being critically harmed by this one interaction on that Saturday morning. 

It is a story that keeps the reader captivated as each scene is vividly described bringing in anxiety and wonder of what will come next. The main character tends to reflect and analyze the various situations he encounters and appears to be accepting of what transpires during this day. It is an unusual story with well-researched information on neurosurgery with gory details of a brain operation that is translated to easily digestible data for an average reader. These sections bring authenticity to the novel.

Saturday by Ian McEwan is a gripping read with many twists and turns throughout the novel and concludes with unexpected outcomes. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner - Fiction

My personal comments follow this review sourced from the website of Kirkus Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ben-lerner/the-topeka-school/

In which the author scrupulously investigates his upper-middle-class upbringing to confront its messy interior of violence, betrayal, and mental illness.

Adam, the center and occasional narrator of Lerner’s (The Hatred of Poetry, 2016, etc.) essayistic and engrossing novel, enjoyed a privileged adolescence in the Kansas capital during the 1990s: He competed nationally in debate, had plenty of friends, and was close to his parents, two psychologists at an illustrious foundation. (Lerner is again in autofiction mode; he, too, competed in high school debate, and his parents are psychologists who’ve worked at Topeka’s Menninger Clinic.) But all is not well: Fred Phelps’ homophobic Westboro Baptist Church recurs in the narrative, a childhood concussion has left Adam with migraines, and his parents’ marriage is strained. 

Lerner alternates sections written from the perspectives of Adam, his mother, and his father with interludes about Darren, a mentally troubled teen who committed an act of violence at a party that Adam feels complicit in. How much? Hard to say, but the book sensitively gathers up the evidence of abuse, violation, and cruelty in Adam’s life. Though the conflicts are often modest, like Adam's mom’s fending off Phelps-ian trolls angry at her bestselling book, Lerner convincingly argues they're worth intense scrutiny. 

As a debate competitor, Adam had to confront a "spread"—an opponent's laying out a fearsome number of arguments, each requiring rebuttals—and Lerner is doing much the same with his adolescence. How do childhood microaggressions build into a singular violent act? Were the rhetorical debates between the Phelpses and the foundation a rehearsal for contemporary Trumpian politics? Few writers are so deeply engaged as Lerner in how our interior selves are shaped by memory and consequence, and if he finds no clear conclusion to his explorations, it makes the “Darren Eberheart situation” increasingly powerful and heartbreaking as the story moves on.

Autofiction at its smartest and most effective: self-interested, self-interrogating, but never self-involved.

My Personal Comments: As I read through this novel I became captivated by the nuances of a family embroiled in struggles with great achievements on the debating stage. I was intrigued by the poignant family dynamics that creates an agonizing reality of their lives.  Ben Lerner's Topeka School is an excellent read. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Walls: Travels Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio - Non-fiction

In Walls: Along the Barricades, Marcello Di Cintio writes a gripping narrative about the people who live near barricades of some sort; wire fences, steel walls, and concrete blocks. These people are escaping war, seeking a better lifestyle or are shut out of their original places of birth.

The author travels to different parts of the world that include Belfast, Cyprus, U.S.-Mexico border, Palestine and even Montreal in Canada. His quest is to understand the rationale for building these walls. From the many conversations with these refugees, he discovers their plight of being stuck in camps near the walls with continued efforts to cross over or around the barricade to get on the other side for a better life.

No matter where the wall is erected, it is not a solution. Instead it generates hate, fear, feelings of separation and division. As a result it becomes more of a problem that is fortified in grief and loss of dignity for the refugees. As Di Cintio takes the reader into these areas it becomes evident that the author portrays a hopeless situation with no solution. 

Walls: Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio is very interesting to absorb as it leaves the reader with many questions and thoughts to ponder about.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Opening Heaven's Door by Patricia Pearson - Non-Fiction

In Opening Heaven's Door, the author, Patricia Pearson takes the reader through a well-researched topic relating to the end of life and beyond. Pearson describes incidents that illustrate the immediate sensations witnessed by the living after the death of a loved one. She outlines personal anecdotes of her experiences of the death of her father and sister along with other narratives she captured from her research on this topic. These reminiscences are brilliantly linked to the research captured from the scientific professionals in this field. 

The author portrays a good balance between the current research that is linked to the narratives she has gathered for this project. It is authentic and gives credence to the experiences of the dying, immediately after death and during the grieving process. Pearson attempts to answer the long asked questions on this topic. Also, she includes stories from those who experienced death only to return to life as changed persons. 

Ultimately there are no definitive answers except experiences that vary from individual to individual. It is very interesting to read through the research that leaves the reader more informed and yet left with further questions with the possibility of accepting the research as part of life's experiences. 

Opening Heaven's Door by Patricia Pearson keeps the reader engrossed with a constant need to read continuously to the end.  It is a well-documented project that captures authenticity. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer - Collection of Short Stories

 

And Thereby Hangs a Tale is a collection of 15 short stories by Jeffrey Archer.  Each story is unique as it picks up on simple situations that unravel into brilliantly written stories. The author captures these situations while travelling to different parts of the world. The settings include India, Germany, England, the Channel Islands, as well as Italy. 

In each of these stories, Archer succinctly captures the culture, time and place that keeps the reader captivated through the meanderings of each story. The author's style of writing brings out various emotions ranging from sheer sadness to delirious happiness that brings out tears and laughter. 

And Thereby Hangs a Tale is an excellent read.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday - Fiction

N. Scott Momaday, author of House Made of Dawn, narrates this story in the oral indigenous tradition. There is a strong presence of the characters communing with nature. He elevates the beauty of our landscape while highlighting the strong human connection to nature. 

The reader can see and feel the power of absorbing our natural surroundings through the author's vivid descriptions.  In some instances, there are illustrations of how this connection can make or break the human soul.

The characters intertwine with each other in varying situations; they appear and disappear as the story unravels in a work place, a social setting or in the safety of home. The reader is enticed to engage with each character through the excellent narration of the many different scenes in the story. Sometimes it is heart breaking while at other times it brings joy and hope. 

The story moves within each scene as it observes and reflects on each incident with flashbacks to another time and another story as it relates to the present scene. It is fascinating to keep up with the story that brings intrigue and suspense. 

House Made of Dawn is an excellent read. The author successfully takes the reader on an emotional journey with each particular character in this novel.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Body by Bill Bryson - Non-fiction

The Body by Bill Bryson takes the reader into the discovery of the parts of the human body in graphic biological details. There are descriptions of each organ and how each operates within the body. 

Bryson, with his characteristic writing style, injects humour where appropriate. The reader has to be aware that this is a deliberate  study of the human body. Hence the references and footnotes are immense. They validate every fact and examples incorporated in this book.  

The reader is provided with the nuances and dedication of the researchers who go above and beyond to improve human living. They have that burning desire to aid in finding cures and treatments for various ailments and diseases. Some are successful while others are not. Bryson provides the scientific data to validate the results of the laboratory testing and experiments. 

There are captivating descriptions of various historical virus and bacterial outbreaks that have spread throughout the world. Bryson examines how the scientists and medical experts worked with these pandemics--sometimes with success and other times with devastating results such as deaths and more deaths. 

The author outlines the role of the population during these past pandemics; how some people, at their own peril, did not follow the advice and regulations provided by the medical experts. These incidents are appropriately outlined as they illustrate how individuals express the infringement of their freedom and liberty and hence their rationale for not following the regulations given by the authorities. Today, the world is experiencing the pandemic of Coronavirus-19 and it appears that history is repeating itself as it relates to the actions of the population. 

The Body is a fountain of knowledge for anyone to absorb and to be aware of how our bodies function with true appreciation for all the scientific researchers and medical experts who do much to save lives and promote healthy living.