Till Death Do Us Part

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella is a light summer read about a married couple who are informed by a doctor that in addition to the ten years they have already been together, they can expect another 68! That prompts them to implement a plan which they hope will add spice to their happy marriage. As in many well intended plans, things go awry.

I have read another novel by Kinsella and this was enjoyable as well. It has a good balance of humor and its characters are human and act in believable ways. If you’re looking for a quick, light read, I imagine you will enjoy this one.

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Fighting for Life

Native Son by Richard Wright is a Top 150 novel published in 1940. It is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read.

This story about a 20-year-old African-American man named Bigger Thomas living in the slums on Chicago’s South Side who murders the wealthy white daughter of his employer and his African-American lover in a span of 24 hours is one I wish had been on the required reading list in high school many years ago. Back then, To Kill a Mockingbird was popular. I wonder now why this was not because it takes the issue of racial prejudice to another strata. I admit however, I probably would not have grasped this powerful novel back then.

One thing which struck me while reading was that I cannot think of reading a story ever where I actually felt sorry for the murderer in addition to the victim. This story is told in such a way that I kept reminding myself Bigger was a man who murdered two innocent women.

During the trial, the defense attorney’s lengthy plea for leniency is incredibly written. The prosecution’s closing argument is beyond belief as well. Considering the length of time since this novel was published, and the occurrences since, I question if much of anything has really changed when it comes to racism in this country.

Outstanding novel!

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I Want My Mommy

Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence is another novel on the Top 150 list. Published over a hundred years ago, it’s central theme is Oedipal complexes.

The main characters are two sons being raised in their parents’ meager homes in coal mining towns in England. Their father loves his liquor and their dissatisfied mother lavishes her love on her sons.

Yes, this story contained a bit too much in the sexual realm for its day and approximately ten percent of the original story was poorly cut before it went to press. It wasn’t well received by the public either. Although I did not enjoy the autobiographical story, it does have its merit. I say this because Lawrence clearly understood and was able to convey the emotional struggles faced by two brothers whose relationships with their mother adversely affected nearly every aspect of their relationships with other women and the world in general. I imagine Freud would have loved it!

I do not recommend it because I failed to appreciate it on any level than that of a tedious study in psychology.

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Off the Radar

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a gut-wrenching memoir which came to my attention via an article I read in The Writer magazine. The author along with four siblings was raised by an alcoholic father and free-spirited, codependent mother.

Hopping from one place to another, Walls’ parents lived hand to mouth without concern for the welfare of their children. Throughout this heartbreaking autobiography, I couldn’t believe the authorities never caught up with these abusive parents who cared so much for themselves and their beliefs and so little for their children.

Reading about abused children does not make for an easy read. So many things in this biography made me gasp that I almost stopped reading it more than once. I admire Walls for having the courage to tell her story. She survived a tumultuous childhood beyond belief.

If you think you can take it, I recommend this book. It is upsetting at the very least, but masterfully written.

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Three’s a Crowd

Tin Man by Sarah Winman is a fictional novel about a man, a woman, and another man embroiled in an unusual relationship.

Ellis loves Michael, Ellis loves Annie, Annie loves Michael, then Ellis marries Annie – at best, it is confusing. That is what I thought while reading this new novel. The first half of the book was lyrical and pretty straightforward, but once Annie entered the plot, I lost my footing and questions I had remained unanswered by the end of the novel.

What is this story about? Bisexuality? HIV? Abandonment? Unconventional relationships? Art? Love? I am confused! The story told in the first-person, flip-flopped around way too much for my liking. The author’s ability to show not tell was admirable, but in order for me to comprehend the novel as a whole, I thought too much was left out. Although the novel may be appreciated by others, I was disappointed.

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This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff came to my attention thanks to an article in The Writer magazine. It is a memoir about the tumultuous early life of the author.

After being separated from his father and older brother, Tobias became the innocent victim of his divorced mother who dragged him across the country living hand to mouth. Easily attracted to toxic men, his mother’s poor relationship choices resulted in an unhappy life for her young son.

I was impressed with Wolf’s writing style. Told in the first-person, it is a powerful story. I completed the book wanting to know more about his mother’s early life and wished it had been told, but this memoir is narrated in the voice of a young man who is abused and unable to understand his plight. I recommend this memoir based mostly on the quality of the storytelling.

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Child of the Mountains

Sergeant York, An American Hero by David D. Lee has been on my list of books to read for years! Many of you may be familiar with the 1940’s movie based on the life of the highly decorated World War I hero. I have seen it several times and it peaked my curiosity about this man from Tennessee.

Alvin York, entered the war a conscientious objector and left it a hero. This well researched biography does a fine job of chronicling how that came about. It also tells of York’s life after the war and the many tribulations he encountered because of his fame. Poorly educated, but highly dedicated to improving the lives of others in the Appalachian mountains from which he came, York was ill-equipped in areas such as money management and school administration. However, this did not deter him from accomplishing some of his many goals.

This book interested me on many levels. It speaks of much to be considered. If you are a history buff, I think you will appreciate it.

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