Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

The Mystery of Hollow PlacesThe Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The subject matter is a good one - mental health or, in this case, mental unhealth. Imogene has a dad and stepmom. She also has half of geode and a story about her mother that her father told her. Then one day her father disappears. Imogene believes it is her duty to find him.

The book has a few side stories happening. Some that are pertinent. Others that don't really seem to tie in so well. The basic concept of separating what you know from what you don't, challenging yourself how you know it is true, and above all, appreciating what you do have, are the strongest parts of the book.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

The Longest NightThe Longest Night by Andria Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the book is historical in nature, the story is much more than an education in nuclear energy post Korean War. It's a quiet book that examines relationships between couples in different stages, as well as pressure that can impact marriage from superiors within and without the military. Abuses of power that threaten families and safety of others. There is also the quiet, seemingly innocent friendships that blossom that, innocent or not, damage trust within marriages.

The book is much more literary than action packed. The author brings up images of a different time where women's roles were much more clearly defined, smoking inside was the norm, and one car per family was enough. Nuances of childlike behavior are described, even the look and feel of contractions are vividly reminiscent of any woman who has had them. There are rules of propriety and the crossing of those rules was a serious infraction. I appreciated the character who befriended Nat and her reaction to her friendship between Nat and Esrom. Although her reaction seemed harsh, I remember vividly a similar experience from my past. A young husband bought an expensive gift for a woman, not his wife, in the presence of a young man that he had befriended. Knowing that the friend knew of the infidelity made him somehow complicit when husband's actions came out in my mind. The author did a wonderful job of expressing why I could never look at the young friend with any degree of respect after that.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The only reason it isn't getting five stars is because I'm particular about a few inaccuracies that few people would catch. The geography of Utah, the small misperceptions of Mormon people bothered me. Yet Esrom was remarkably accurate in most accounts of what a good Mormon boy might do for sense of duty.

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

What Was MineWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This would be a challenging book to write. The story has many voices but predominantly focuses on Lucy, Marilyn, then Mia at 21. The story is written in retrospect as the characters recount events. Lucy and her husband, a power couple in Manhattan deal with infertility and the impact this has on both Lucy and her husband are different and told through their points of view. Marilyn and her husband are also successful and perhaps a little distracted yet not negligent by any stretch when Lucy steals the baby girl who seems to have been left unattended. Although she didn't really intend to steal a baby. It was just circumstantial and opportunistic and she justifies it early on. Yet she never forgets that she irreparably wounded a mother as she raises and loves Mia.

Meanwhile, we follow Marilyn through her journey for the next 21 years. The repercussions are enormous yet Marilyn finds a semblance of peace and new life. I think that Marilyn's life takes a completely different turn with the loss of her baby.

The interesting part is that the reader is often sympathetic to every character at one point or another. I was never sympathetic for Lucy's reasons for taking the baby yet I understood, to some degree, how she had often to the point she had in her crazy thinking. Her justifications were flimsy, yet I considered her state of mind.

There are subtle side stories that could be compared and contrasted within a book group. Wendy, the Chinese nanny has a couple of storylines that could be contrasted. Cheryl's attitude would be an interesting topic, as well.

There are other topics that I'd add but any more would be spoilers.

Really, well written book with very clear different points of view.