Saturday, August 4, 2012

Some Quick Thoughts

Every Last One
Anna Quindlen

At work, we have a book exchange box. I pulled this one out of it awhile ago, as I've been wanting to give Anna Quindlen another try. I read Blessings several years ago, and thought it was okay, but nothing special. However, I've read some short nonfiction from her and really like it a lot.

Well, I think I'll stick to her nonfiction. Every Last One was... fine. Tragic, which certainly appeals to me. But there was a distance between the reader and the Mary Beth, the narrator, a buffer, that meant that I never really felt a true connection with her. She has trouble connecting with the other people in her life, too.

There is a lovely piece near the beginning where Mary Beth describes the breathing patterns of each of her children. Their sounds while sleeping mirror their personalities while awake. I am fascinated by idea of what makes a person uniquely "them," even as they sleep.

So, not a bad book, but just not worth raving about.

Rula Jebreal
This is a book that could have been really good. Hind, a young, Arab woman in Jerusalem finds 55 orphaned or abandoned children, victims of the violence erupting in the city. She changes the course of her life to serve this children and the many more like them that are sure to appear. She leverages her considerable connections to keep them housed, fed, and as safe as possible.

The book is divided into parts, each part focusing on one of the female characters. Miral, of course, is one of them, a girl sent to Hind's orphanage and school after her mother dies. Her father is at a loss as to what do do with Miral and her younger sister. He trusts Hind to look after them and educate them, and he does his best to see them as often as possible.

Unfortunately, the tone never seemed to change, so all of the women just blended together for me. Further, just like in Every Last One, there was a distance between the characters and the reader. In fact, in the first chapter, I thought perhaps I was reading a journalist telling of an event that was going to set up the "real" action of the book. Nope. And then I realized the book was written by a journalist. I have  not had much luck with journalists who write novels.

Here's a thing I like about blogging: it forces me to think about why  a book didn't speak to me. Here are two decent books, ones I'm sure many people would like, but they weren't for me. And in writing about them, I realize that despite the vastly different settings, time period, etc, the problem I had with both of them was that I could not connect with the main characters. I don't have to like the main characters of the books I read, but I do have to get them.

What is a must for you when you read? Characters? Plot? Writing? Something else? Share in the comments.

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