Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The History of Love

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)

A story of an old man and a teenage girl whose lives are marred with unhappiness, mostly because of a loss of love, but also strangely tied together by a book about love. The narrative winds through years and through narrators to show the universality of loss, loneliness, and love. I found the characters, especially Leo and Alma, to be quite intriguing and I wanted to know that they would be happy in the end. However, I was left wanting more at the end--more information about Alma's life, more information letting me know Leo's life wasn't as sad as it seemed, and a clearer ending. The writing was quite good, but I was left too unsatisfied with the story to fully recommend the novel.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Loved Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (2005)

Cornelia is a 31-year-old coffee shop manager with a passion for old love stories, and a deep desire for her own love story. When Martin walks into her life, a set of events spring to action that eventually bring her to more than one unexpected love. This was a quick read and it kept my interest, but most of it was pretty unbelievable. I really liked the narrative tone and it made Cornelia a more believable character, despite her lusting after a much-older man and her sister's husband. Clare's 11-year-old voice, however, was quite unbelievable to me. In the end, the book was disappointing and I would not recommend it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (2007)

Ruth is a sad, divorced, lonely, liberal sex-ed teacher in New England trying to stand up against a growing congregation of Evangelical Christians in her community. The novel focuses on her struggles, but also zeroes in on Tim, a born-again Christian soccer coach whose life is intertwined with Ruth's. The characters are strong and believable, but the book is also predictable and rather bland. It would also lead a reader to believe that all middle-age suburban men and women think about is sex and all the different people they want to have sex with that they aren't married to (a la Perrotta's successful Little Children). Instead of coming across as a hero, Ruth just seemed self-righteous and annoying so I found it hard to really enjoy the novel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

A classic that I had bypassed for years because I figured it was likely boring. I'm so glad I finally picked it up, because I was not bored once in the nearly 500 pages.
One of the last scenes in the book takes place between Francie and the man who gives her a first painful introduction to heartbreak and it is one of my favorites:

"New York! I've always wanted to see it and now I've seen it. It's true what they say--it's the most wonderful city in the world."
"Brooklyn's better."
"It hasn't got skyscrapers like New York, has it?"
"No. But there's a feeling about it--Oh, I can't explain it. You've got to live in Brooklyn to know."

Despite the fact that her family grows up in poverty and they face many losses and hardships, Francie loves Brooklyn because it is her life. The novel takes place over a six year time period before the first World War and when the Irish were still one of the main immigrant groups in Brooklyn. Francie is the heroine, of course, but Smith introduces us to so many other colorful characters that make the time period and place come alive. I read that Smith used her own experiences growing up in Brooklyn during this time period as a framework for the story which perhaps makes the story that much more relatable and touching. I give this book 5 stars out of 5 and an unquestionable recommendation to everyone!